Below is a list of common land and soil issues that we face now, and going into the future as a society.
In the same way we can have water scarcity, we can also have land scarcity.
Specifically, we are talking about the scarcity of arable land (fertile land to grow crops and food).
Land degradation is a big reason for losing the arable land we currently have.
Land degradation is really the overall issue that encompasses other land and soil issues such as soil contamination, soil erosion (loss of topsoil), soil acidification – just to name a few.
You can read more about land degradation in this guide.
Land Clearing (& Deforestation)
A cause of land degradation.
Clear cutting and deforestation both include the removal of forests, trees and vegetation of land – usually for logging or conversion to agricultural land (farming, ranch or urban use).
Deforestation usually removes the top hummus and leaf litter layer that protects the fertile soil below it. It also reduces biodiversity in the area.
Usually refers to the erosion of (the complete or partial removal of, or damage to) fertile topsoil.
Topsoil contains minerals and nutrients to grow crops and plant life, and is characterised by decayed/decomposed organic matter (from plants and animals) which has usually spent many years being built up and being weathered, and has beneficial microorganisms in the soil.
Many sources claim this is a problem because it takes many years to naturally develop topsoil again, and in some cases, top soil can’t be regenerated. Other sources do say that topsoil is renewable with organic fertilizer/manure and other solutions though.
Soil erosion can be from water and wind erosion, but there are also mechanical causes of soil erosion – such as human induced overgrazing of livestock, over tilling and so on.
When the chemical composition of the soil or land is changed.
This can be direct such as contamination via agricultural chemicals (fertilizers and pesticides), dumping of industrial chemicals and the improper disposal of hazardous waste such as radioactive waste.
It can also be indirect such as polluted/contaminated water and air contaminating the soil or changing the chemical composition of the soil (acid rain and nitrogen emissions in the air are examples of this).
Soil acidification is a reduction in the soil pH – which can be a problem for agriculture, beneficial microorganisms, plant life and general soil health.
It can be caused by a range of factors such as acid rain, soil amendments such as fertilizer and manure, and also air pollution.
Can be causes by a range of factors, but involves a high saline concentration in the soil.
Is particularly a problem for coastal land, land with raised saline groundwater aquifer levels, and land with poorly managed or excess irrigation.
Australia in particular has issues with soil salinity in some states.
Other Land & Soil Problems
In total, there are around 36 types of land degradation.
The above are just some of the more pressing land and soil issues.
Impact Of Land & Soil Issues
We have a growing population of people on earth.
Land and soil are resources that we use to not only regulate the environment, but use to extract or produce other resources for that growing population of people.
We will need more production or better efficiency in the future from out land resources, not less.
We use land to:
- Grow food, grow fibres, raise livestock
- Develop housing, commercial buildings and factories, build roads and other infrastructure
- Mine minerals, metals and fossil fuels
- Manage our waste (landfills)
- Contain freshwater sources
- Support living organisms, animals, plants/vegetation and ecosystems
- + more
Land degradation and lack of arable land has an impact on:
- Our ability to make money and support an economy
- Our ability to produce or protect vital resources like food and water
- Animals and the environment
- Our health and well being (when we talk about soil contamination and cross contamination of water sources)
What is very clear is that land degradation, through loss of efficiency, loss of production and through increased health and other risks – impacts the short and long term future of the social, economic and environmental aspects of society.