Soil degradation is defined by Environment and Heritage, a conservation body as the decline in soil quality caused by its improper use, usually for agricultural, pastural, industrial or urban purposes....
Chronic and intense soil transmitted helminthes can contribute to malnutrition and iron-deficiency anemia and also can adversely affect physical and mental growth in childhood (Drake et al.,2000.,Stephenson et al.,2000., Hotez et al.,2004)....
Significant soil erosion started when humans domesticated animals and plants, removed vegetation from larger areas, and thus intensified land use. This erosion presumably began with domestication and concentrated settlement around ten thousand years ago in the Near East and later elsewhere. A third period of erosion probably started with more active trail formation, continued active removal of vegetation for settlements, and soil manipulation for seedbeds. The first actual evidence for erosion seems to lag behind the earliest evidence for agriculture. This lag is about one thousand years in Greece, where the first erosion occurred in some regions about 5000 BCE. The lag also occurred in Mesoamerica, where evidence for agricultural-induced land-use change occurred around 3600 BCE, but the first wave of sedimentation from erosion occurred by 1400 BCE. Generally, this early erosion accelerated with the Bronze Age civilizations of Eurasia and the Early Preclassic (before the first millennium CE) Americas as pioneer farmers ascended from the river valleys and lowlands and deforested steeper slopes in Mesopotamia, Mesoamerica, the Mediterranean, China, and the Indus Valley. Soil erosion waxed and waned in ancient cultures after this period, depending on soil conservation, climate change, and land-use intensity. In some parts of the Classic Americas (about the first millennium CE) in Mesoamerica and the Andes, soil conservation features sustained heavy soil use with high populations, though some studies argue that high soil demands and insufficient conservation figured in declines and collapses. The evidence for the Mediterranean is variable; there is some evidence for soil stability and some for erosion and sedimentation during the highly populated and intensely managed Hellenistic and Roman periods.
A fourth period of world soil erosion occurred with the vast breaking up of new lands around the world that resulted from colonial settlement during the sixteenth to the twentieth centuries. For the first time in history, large areas of previously uncultivated land fell under the plow in the Americas, Oceania, Siberia, Asia, and Africa. Moreover, farmers used to the relatively mild climates and low slopes of western Europe began to farm areas on steeper slopes with much more intensive precipitation or drier and more wind-erosionprone conditions. These farmers were pioneers who came with little knowledge about their environments and ignored what conservation indigenous people had practiced. This ignorance led to devastating rates of soil erosion and lost land productivity.
We can view the history of soil erosion as spanning several periods. It started long before human history as geological or “natural” erosion, which is generally a slow process, but given enough time it carved mile-deep and spectacular canyons. This soil erosion occurred in several temporal modes, but it was generally slow and steady over millions of years, though it could be episodically rapid and discontinuous. A second wave started with human-induced or human-accelerated erosion, when humans became technologically advanced enough to disrupt the surface vegetation through fire and the girdling of trees. Evidence suggests that cooking fires go back over 1 million years, but evidence indicates that the use of fire to control vegetation, and thus causing erosion, clearly started as a hunter-gatherer phenomenon in the Pleistocene era (about 60,000 BCE) in what is now Tanzania.
Human landscape alteration also increases the size and frequency of mass movements on slopes, stream bank erosion, coastal erosion, and wind erosion. Wind soil erosion occurs at natural and accelerated rates as well and over a large part of the Earth, especially on flat, drier, sandier, and less-vegetated areas. The key factors in wind erosion are surface cover, soil coherence, and wind intensity and duration. In many areas where all of these conditions prevail, such as in Loess Plateau of China, which has had among the highest rates of erosion for millennia, water erosion is also very high. The processes of wind erosion starts with sediment load in a channel being carried in suspension by winds fast enough to hold up particles or those particles being rolled or saltated along the ground. Over 90 percent of the sediment is carried less than 1 meter above the surface, and all soil textures (clay, silt, and sand and even gravel) can be carried by wind, depending on aggregation, shape, and density. Winds tend to carry the larger particles like sands over shorter distances as creep or saltation. They can and do carry clays over thousands of kilometers, but clays also cohere into large enough clods that they resist deflation. Thus under normal winds, silt and fine sand is often the texture size that deflates, suspends, travels, and drops out into deposits at predictable distances from the point of erosion. These deposition areas build up and become the world’s extensive loess (wind-deposited, loamy soil) deposits, like those in China, central Europe, the Mississippi Valley, and the Palouse region of Washington State, often fertile but highly erosive landscapes.
It has beenrepeatedly demonstrated that land-managers can be bribed to adopt andto continue using soil and water conservation, if economic incentivesare sufficiently high to make adoption profitable in the short-term.
The final period of world soil erosion came after World War II, with the expansion of mechanization and population growth fueled by better food and medicine. What once had been remote or marginal lands, such as steppes and tropical forests, became farmable due to the imperatives of high populations and the growing markets for tropical crops like coffee and bananas. Expanding populations and a variety of displacement processes drove farmers into lands extremely susceptible to erosion, such as that in the mountains of Central and South America, Africa, and south and east Asia. The mechanics of soil erosion alone explain why recent agricultural and wood-cutting expansion upslope into hills of Haiti, Rwanda, Madagascar, and Nepal have made human-induced soil erosion the largest agent of geomorphic change on the Earth today.
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