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Sub-topic 5.

3 Soil
degradation and

Learning Objectives
1 Outline the processes and consequences of soil
2 Outline soil conservation measures.

Soils are becoming degraded in many regions.

Figure 8.1a

Soil degradation by continent

Europes land is
most degraded
because of its
long history of
But Asias and
Africas soils are
fast becoming

Figure 8.1b

Set Induction
Soil counts - Preserve it

Lets discuss: Soil degradation:

Define soil degradation
Soil Degradation is the decline in the quantity and quality of soil.
Recognize the factors responsible for soil degradation
1. Think about physical, chemical, biological processes in detail
.Factors responsible for soil degradation:
.It includes erosion by wind and water, biological degradation (loss of humus),
physical degradation (loss of structure, change in permeability) and chemical
degradation (acidification, salinity, changes in pH)
.Factors that lead decrease of agricultural land / soil degradation are:
1. Soil erosion- quantity ---- How it happens?
2. Salinization quality--- How it happens?
3. Desertification- quality --- How it happens?
4. Urbanization ( construction) quality and quantity

How these factors

cause Soil

Task : Fish Bone diagram

1. Make a fish bone diagram : Recognize the various human
activities that lead to soil degradation, identify the processes
and consequences of it. Refer to the resources in next slide
.Clue: think about and identify unsustainable agricultural practices and
different terrestrial food production systems.

.Task Named Case study: Soil degradation

1. Refer to the links given, Through the named Case study ( one
national and one global level) explain the process of Soil
degradation. Focus on the types of erosion
2. Apply the knowledge of specific food production systems to
their associated soil degradation and consequent soil
conservation management strategies (EVS)

Named Case study: Soil

What is Desertification?
Explain the process using a case study
Sahel Case study
Dust Bowl case study of desertification
Desertification: a case study from Saurashtra region of
Gujarat state of India
Challenges of Combating Desertification in Asia A case
study of India

Task Identify Human activities

responsible for soil degradation
Most soil degradation
is caused by:
livestock overgrazing
removal of woodland
and pastures
cropland agriculture
Roads and tracks

Figure 8.2

Identify the processes and

consequences of it
Task 1: Think pair and share Write in points: how overgrazing leads to soil
Too many animal graze in the same area. Eg Sahel area in Africa in 1970s and
Soil particles blown by wind, as roots not there to hold.
As soil formation is a slow process, it takes many years to recover
Task 2: Think pair and share Write in points: how overgrazing leads to soil
Overcropping depletes soil nutrients
This reduces soil fertility, as no nutrients are being returned to the soil.
If crop fails, the soil becomes more susceptible to erosion
Case study: In 1930s, American midwest suffered. Due to overcropping / overuse
of land was badly affected by wind erosion


Process Consequen Soil


Research Resource: Visit the

Soil Erosion
and Degradation WWF
UNCCD: United Nation Convention to Combat desertification (
Deforestation National Geography (
Soil Degradation
Soil Erosion Game

Erosion and deposition

Define Erosion =
removal of material from one place and its transport
elsewhere by wind or water
Define Deposition =
arrival of eroded material at a new location
These processes are natural, and can build up fertile
But where artificial speed up the rate of degradation
of soil, they are a big problem for farming.

Causes of Degradation
USLE: Universal Soil Loss Equation is use to predict the amount of erosion that
takes place in an area on the basis of certain factors which increase
susceptibility to erosion.

1. A: the predicted soil loss
2. R: rainfall erosivity index depends on rainfall totals, intensity, seasonal distribution
3. K: soil erodibility depends on infilteration capacity and structural stability
4. L: slope length influence the movement and speed of the water down slope
5. S: slope gradient influence the movement and speed of the water down slope
6. C: cover and management includes type of crop and cultivation practice
7. P: erosion control practice includes soil conservation measures

Unsustainable Agriculture Practices

What do you understand by unsustainable agricultural
The techniques that cannot be applied over a long
period of time without decrease in productivity or
increased inputs of chemicals like fertilizers or energy
List the various unsustainable agricultural techniques

Various unsustainable agricultural

Removal of crop after harvest. This leaves soil open to
Growing crops in rows with uncovered soils in
between. Again erosion will occur, especially if the crops are
grown on aslope and rows are in the direction of the slope
Ploughing in the direction of the slope, this will leave
readymade channels for rainwater to flowdown
Excessive use of pesticides. Soil with time will become too
toxic. Will lead to biomagnification
Irrigation: correct time of irrigation

Unsustainable use of soil

overgrazing where the trampling and feeding of
livestock leads to loss of vegetation, and exposure of
underlying soil;
deforestation removing vegetation;
over cultivation leading to a loss of soil fertility and
all leave top soil vulnerable to erosion by wind and water;
excessive irrigation can lead to salinization and

Sustainable Agriculture


High-yield polyculture

Soil erosion

Organic fertilizers

Soil salinization

Biological pest control

Aquifer depletion

Integrated pest


Irrigation efficiency
Perennial crops

Loss of

Crop rotation

Loss of prime

Use of more waterefficient crops

Food waste

Soil conservation

Subsidies for unsustainable

farming and fishing

Subsidies for more

sustainable farming and

Population growth

What Can You Do?

Sustainable Agriculture

Waste les food

Reduce or eliminate meat consumption
Feed pets balanced grain foods instead of meat
Use organic farming to grow some of your food
Buy organic food
Compost your food wastes

Water Erosion animation
Virtual lab: factors affecting erosion

Erosion and Deposition

Named Case study on Wind causing Soil
Sand dunes around Moses Lake, Washington
are all that are left of the wind erosion in that area.
The smaller particles, silt and clay were blown
eastward. The deposition of the silt and clay
particles led to the formation of the Palouse Hills.
The Palouse Hills are a wind/water erosional

Wind action may lead to dam or dune

construction or erosion and thus can play a
role in lake basin formation. Eg Moses Lake
in Washington state was formed by
windblownsandthat dammed the basin.

Types of soil erosion

due to water
accounts for 60%
Splash erosion occurs when
raindrops hit bare soil. The
explosive impact breaks up soil
aggregates so that individual soil
particles are splashed onto the soil
surface. It leads to soil surface
erosion when rainfall intensity
exceeds infiltration capacity.

Sheet erosion
Sheet erosion refers to the
uniform movement of a thin layer
of soil across an expanse of land
devoid of vegetative cover.
Raindrops detach soil particles, which
go into solution as runoff occurs and
are transported downstream to a
point of deposition.
Tilled agricultural fields and

Types of Erosions

Rill erosion

Gully erosion

Rills are Small channels (max

few cms) that change location
with every run-off.
When sheet flows begin to
concentrate on the land surface,
rill erosion occurs.
While sheet erosion is generally
invisible, rill erosion leaves visible
scouring on the landscape.
This type of erosion occurs when the
duration or intensity of rain increases
Gully erosion is pronounced erosion
and runoff volumes accelerate.
by ephemeral streams (streams that
occur only after storms) producing
steep sided channels.
Merging of many rill erosion evolves
into gully erosion as duration or
intensity of rain continues to increase
and runoff volumes continue to
Also tunnel erosions lead to collapse

Case study: The Dust Bowl

Drought and
degraded farmland
produced the 1930s
Dust Bowl.
Storms brought dust
from the U.S. Great
Plains all the way to
New York and
Washington, and
wrecked many lives.

Figure 8.14

Learning Objectives
1. Explain the relationship between soil ecosystem
succession and soil fertility.
2. Discuss the influences of human activities on soil
fertility and soil erosion.
3. Outline soil conservation measures
4. Evaluate soil management strategies in a named
commercial farming system
5. Evaluate soil management strategies in a named
subsistence farming system

1. Create a Soil food web
2. Write a paragraph on the relationship between soil
food web, plants, organic matter, birds and mammals
3. Explain the relationship between soil ecosystem
succession and soil fertility.

Explain the relationship between

soil ecosystem succession and soil

First, lichens, which grow on rock, appear in a destroyed region.

The lichens help break down the rock. Then, as lichens die and
decompose, and weathering breaks apart rock, soil begins to form.
As soil becomes richer, small plants like mosses and ferns appear,
and the lichens start to disappear. The soil continues to become
richer as plants continue to die and decompose, and flowering
plants and grasses appear, bringing insects to the region. In time,
shrubs and small trees cover the region, creating a suitable
habitat for reptiles, birds, and mammals. As the shrubs and trees
grow, smaller plants die from lack of sunlight and add more
organic material to the soil. Eventually, the shrubs and trees die
because taller trees cover the region. This all happens gradually
over a long period of time.

Soil ecosystems change through succession.

Fertile soil contains a community of organisms
that work to maintain functioning nutrient cycles
and that are resistant to soil erosion.

Task: Use the given resources

1. Outline soil conservation measures
2. Evaluate the soil management strategies of a given commercial
farming system and of a given subsistence farming system.
3. Discuss how variant use of soil systems can lead to different
degradation and conservation. (IM)
4. Fertile soil can be considered as a non-renewable resource because
once depleted, it can take significant time to restore the fertilityhow
does our perception of time influence our understanding of change?
5. Our understanding of soil conservation has progressed in recent years
what constitutes progress in different areas of knowledge? (ToK)

Soil Management Methods

10 ways to conserve soil
Soil management practices
Soil management strategies
Using Agroforestry
Sustainable Agriculture

Commercial, industrialized food production systems

generally tend to reduce soil fertility more than smallscale subsistence farming methods.
Reduced soil fertility may result in soil erosion,
toxification, salination and desertification.

News link
'Slow, insidious' soil erosion threatens human health
and welfare as well as the environment, Cornell
study asserts
Brazil says Amazon deforestation rose 28% in a year
Trees 'boost African crop yields and food security'
Our Good Earth

Source of info