Ecology | VOL. 16, ISSUE 96, May-June 2016

Soil Degradation and Soil Quality

Soil is the most basic natural resource that supports all terrestrial life on earth. It is finite in extent and non-renewable over human timescale. However, it is prone to degradation owing to land misuse, mismanagement and other natural and anthropogenic forces. Soil degradation can be of different types: Physical: Erosion, decline in structure, water logging, crusting, compaction; Chemical: Salinisation, acidification, nutrient imbalance comprising of toxicity or deficiency; Biological: Depletion of soil organic carbon, reduction in soil biodiversity, decline in microbial biomass; and Ecological: Disruption in nutrient cycling and decline in carbon sink capacity. Soil degradation leads to reduction in ecosystem functions and services to mankind and nature. Soil erosion is the most important causative factor that affects 56 per cent of the total area affected by human-induced soil degradation in the world. According to L.R. Oldeman (1992) nearly 2 billion hectares (ha) which is 22.5 per cent of the world’s agricultural lands, pastures, forest and woodlands are degraded. Further the harmonized statistics of Indian Council of Agricultural Research (2010), point out that of 328.7 mha of India’s geographical area 142 mha is cultivated land. Of this, about 57 mha (40 per cent) is irrigated and the remaining 85 mha (60 per cent) is rain-fed. The total area of degraded and wasteland stands at 120.72 mha out of the total 328.7 mha geographical area. The extent...

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