The following example essay on “Land Degradation” talks about a set of processes that lead to a change in the functions of the soil, a quantitative and qualitative deterioration of its properties.
It thus covers the various forms of soil degradation, adverse human impacts on water resources, deforestation, ND lowering of the productive capacity of rangelands. This study takes the degradation Of soil resources as its focus. This includes soil erosion by water and wind, deterioration in soil physical, chemical and biological properties, water logging, and the build-up of toxicities, particularly salts, in the soil.
Since soil productivity is intimately connected with water availability, lowering of the groundwater table is also noted. Since deforestation is being treated in detail in a current FAA study, it is here considered primarily as a cause of soil degradation, particularly erosion. Land degradation has both on-site and off- tie effects. On-site effects are the lowering of the productive capacity of the land, causing either reduced outputs (crop yields, livestock yields) or the need for increased inputs.
Off-site effects of water erosion occur through changes in the water regime, including decline in river water quality, and sedimentation of river beds and reservoirs. The main off-site effect Of wind erosion is over blowing, or sand deposition. Types of land degradation in Ghana Water Pollution: water pollution is the contamination Of water bodies. Air Pollution: Air pollution is the process by which poisonous gases are leased into the atmosphere.
Land Degradation: Land degradation is the gradual depletion of the quantity and quality of the land.
Other types Of land degradation in Ghana. Overgrazing – It is the act of putting a lot of animals (herbivores) on a small piece of land to feed. Over cropping – It is act of growing too many crops on a small piece of land. Bush fires – A bushfire is an uncontrolled fire in an area of combustible vegetation that occurs in the countryside or a wilderness area. [l Other names such as brush fire, wildfire, forest fire, desert fire, grass fire, hill fire, eat fire, vegetation fire, and vilified may be used to describe the same phenomenon depending on the type of vegetation being burned. Natural events (disaster) – A natural disaster IS a major adverse event resulting from natural processes of the Earth; examples include floods, severe weather, volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, and other geologic processes.
Types of land degradation assessed For the purpose of this study, the many and varied processes of land degradation have been grouped into six classes: water erosion, wind erosion, soil fertility decline, Stabilization, water logging, and lowering of the water able. Water erosion covers all forms of soil erosion by water, including sheet and rill erosion and gulling. Human-induced intensification Of land sliding, caused by vegetation clearance, road construction, etc. , is also included. Wind erosion refers to loss of soil by wind, occurring primarily in dry regions.
Soil fertility decline is used as a short term to refer to what is more precisely described as deterioration in soil physical, chemical and biological properties. Whilst decline in fertility is indeed a major effect of erosion, the term is used here of cover effects of processes other than erosion.
The main processes involved are: lowering of soil organic master, with associated decline in soil biological activity; degradation of soil physical properties (structure, aeration, water holding capacity), as brought about by reduced organic master; adverse changes in soil nutrient resources, including reduction in availability of the major nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium), onset of encountering deficiencies, and development of nutrient imbalances.
Buildup of toxicities, primarily acidification through incorrect fertilizer use. Water logging is the lowering in land productivity through the rise in roundtable close to the soil surface. Also included under this heading is the severe form, termed pending where the water table rises above the surface. Water logging is linked with Stabilization, both being brought about by incorrect irrigation management. Stabilization is used in its broad sense, to refer to all types of soil degradation brought about by the increase of salts in the soil. It thus covers both Sterilizations in its strict sense, the buildup of free salts; and codification (also called legalization), and the development of dominance of the exchange complex by sodium.
As human-induced processes, these occur mainly through incorrect planning and management of irrigation schemes. Also covered is saline intrusion, the incursion of sea water into coastal soils arising from over-abstraction of groundwater. Lowering of the water table is a self-explanatory form of land degradation, brought about through tubercle pumping of groundwater for irrigation exceeding the natural recharge capacity. This occurs in areas of non-saline (sweet’) groundwater.
The term desertification originated with a specific meaning, as or example in the 1977 World map of desertification (UNEVEN, 1977). It was subsequently widely used and misused in a broader sense. These wider meanings have sometimes been extended to almost all forms of land degradation, for example soil erosion in the humid tropics (Young, 1985).
The recent World atlas of desertification (UNEVEN, AAA) includes all the six groups of land degradation covered in the present study thus implicitly, from its title, using the term in the broader sense. Following agreement at a recent UNEVEN conference, the term has been defined with a more restricted meaning: Desertification is land degradation in aria, semi-arid and dry sub humid areas resulting from adverse human impact (LESSEN, Bibb). This is the meaning in which the term is employed in the ESCAPE network on desertification (ESCAPE, 1983, 1 991 b).
In this study, therefore, desertification is equivalent to land degradation in the dry zone, and need not be separately assessed as a type of degradation. Other types Of degradation included Other types of land degradation are treated briefly, treated as causes, or excluded from this review. This is because they are localized or of small extent on a regional scale, or because they are more fully treated elsewhere. Four further classes are recognized as types of land degradation, and as having considerable importance in the region. One case, deforestation, has been treated by reference to an external review.
The two other types are considered in more generalized terms. Deforestation. The occurrence of deforestation is widespread and extremely serious in the region. It is not independently assessed here, in view of more detailed treatment in the current FAA Forest resources assessment 1990 project. Deforestation is also issued as a cause of erosion. Forest degradation This is the reduction of biotic resources and lowering of productive capacity of forests through human activities. It is under review in a current survey (Bannered and Grimes, in preparation).
This is the lowering of the productive capacity of rangelands. It is considered in generalized terms, but no quantitative data have been identified. Types of degradation excluded from the study Other types of degradation are excluded from this study, either because they are of small extent on a regional scale, or they are more fully treated elsewhere. These are: Acid sulfate formation, a serious but localized form of degradation, which may occur on drainage of coastal swamps. Soil pollution, from industrial or mining effluents, to the atmosphere, rivers or groundwater. This is an important concern in the region, but is strongly localized. Soil destruction through mining and quarrying activities, the failure to restore soil after extraction.
The same remarks apply as for soil pollution. Urban and industrial encroachment onto agricultural land. With the projected increase in arbitration, this will continue to be a substantial cause of loss of agricultural land, but it is a different problem from land degradation. Effects of war. Land degradation on a substantial scale through effects of war has been reported from Iran (western borderlands) and Afghanistan, in the latter case including the destruction of irrigation schemes. Potential effects of global climatic change. It is beyond question that the composition of the world’s atmosphere is being substantially altered as a result of human activities. A small but significant global warming has already been observed and is projected to continue.
It is possible that this may lead o modifications to the general atmospheric circulation with consequent changes in rainfall. These changes could be beneficial or adverse to land productivity or human welfare: specifically, in semi-arid regions, rainfall might become higher or longer, more reliable or less, or with longer or higher incidence of droughts.
There is, however, no firm evidence of what such changes may tee. If adverse changes occur in some areas, then these will certainly constitute a most serious form of human-induced degradation of natural resources. It is accepted that, for a range of reasons, action should be oaken to reduce emissions of ‘greenhouse gases’. However, until there is clearer evidence, its potential effects upon climate must remain a master of research, and these will not be further considered.
Problems of the natural environment. Aridity and drought ‘Aridity’ and ‘drought’ are referred to in the COSEC resolution on which this study is based. These, however, are problems of the natural environment in semi-arid and aria areas. In the subsequent amplifications of the terms of reference it is clear that degradation, namely human-induced adverse environmental changes, is the intended focus. Therefore aridity and drought would only properly be included if it could be shown that rainfall had been reduced, or drought spells made more frequent, as a result of man’s activities. This has not been established. Problem soils. Soils which present special difficulties for agriculture may be called problem soils. They include saline soils, sandy soils, cracking clays, strongly acid soils, shallow soils, and soils on steeply sloping or poorly drained land.
A comprehensive review for Asia and the Pacific is given in FAA/ ARPA (1990) and a map of problem soils is in preparation. To the extent that these are problems of the natural environment, problem soils do not constitute land degradation. However, land degradation frequently leads to an increase in the extent or severity of problem soils, for example, erosion causes shallow soils. A clear case is that of saline soils: these occur naturally, in which case they are problem soils, but their extent has been greatly increased by human-induced Stabilization.
Reversible degradation and land reclamation. The effects of water and wind erosion are largely irreversible. Although plant nutrients and soil organic master may be replaced, to replace the actual loss f soil material would require taking the soil out of use for many thousands of years, an impractical course of action. In other cases, land degradation is reversible: soils with reduced organic master can be restored by additions Of plant residues, degraded pastures may recover under improved range management. Stabilized soils can be restored to productive use, although at a high cost, through salinity control and reclamation projects.