Soil erosion and desertification might not be on your daily agenda nor it is on the agenda of governments’ urgent matters but be aware, drylands make up almost 40% of the Earth’s land and its over-exploitation as well as degradation in consequence of a fragile ecosystem renders the soil unproductive and destroys agriculture communities in many developing countries.
Being soil erosion one of the most important of today’s environmental problems, yet probably the least well-known, we invited two of our editors working in the field of Soil Science to talk about the issue in an attempt to raise awareness among both the wider audience and specific stakeholders.
Dr. Danilo Godone, and his colleague Dr. Silvia Stanchi, are the editors of one of InTech’s latest books, “Soil Erosion Issues in Agricuture“, available to read, share and download for free on InTechOpen. In the interview that follows, we might just understand what is truly at stake by ignoring current issues in environmental sciences.
InTech: Tell us something about your activity as a researcher/editor. What is your main field of study, and main interests?
SS: My main research interests are soil vulnerability to shallow movements (erosion, soil slips, loss of consistence and structure) and their trigger mechanisms. I’m interested in soil management issues related to soil conservation, mainly in hilly and mountain environments.
DG: My research interest is mainly geomatic and its applications on natural disaster prevention and analysis in mountain environments. Moreover, I’ve focused my last year’s work on cryospheric case studies (glacier, avalanches, snow cover).
InTech: So far, how many papers have you published/edited and what were the main subjects?
SS: I published around 30 papers/proceedings, among them 5 papers in journals with Impact Factors. The main focuses are: soil physical properties related with soil vulnerability and aggregation, soil management, soil aggregate stability.
DG: I have published approximately 25 papers, 3 of them in journals with Impact Factor and 5 in peer-reviewed international journals. The rest consist in international conferences proceedings. Papers topics cover different applications of geomatic techniques in land dynamics assessment, particularly: natural hazards, historical land use change and cryosphere monitoring.
InTech: You have been researching soil erosion. What is the importance of researching soil erosion in agriculture?
SS: The main goal should be the mitigation of soil erosion through a wise management of soil resources. Erosion is a severe threat to agricultural production and food resources availability, but also to slope stability and land conservation.
DG: Research in soil erosion should, in order to prevent, improve methodological approaches and their dissemination among general users. The main purpose is to optimize soil protection and increase people’s willingness to perform it with the aim of preserving a crucial resource of food supply.
InTech: Where does soil erosion mostly occur?
SS: It’s strongly related with soil management practices (slash and burn management, deforestation, overgrazing, high anthropic pressure…). Of course, extreme climatic and topographic conditions may enhance erosion and increase its effects (slope, climate, heavy rainfall, climate change influence on precipitations regimes, presence of bare soil or incoherent material…).
DG: Soil erosion is due to different factors. The anthropic influence, however, may result as a critical factor especially in areas lacking a correct management (illegal land exploitation, developing countries…). Moreover, the current climatic changes result in a severe increase of erosion phenomena.
InTech: What are the economical consequences for the countries where soil erosion heavily affects the agricultural industry?
SS: The main consequences are loss of fertility both from the chemical and physical point of view, and a severe threat to soil as a non-renewable resource. Agriculture requires higher and higher energy inputs to cope with the erosion-related problems.
DG: The economic consequence is a reduction of cultivable surface leading to increase in yield prices; this fact leads to the need of new surfaces, mainly from forested or, more generally, natural areas, thus impoverishing biodiversity.
InTech: Are there any preventive practices to avoid or slow down the process of soil erosion you consider to be the best?
SS: Of course, depending on climate, there are successful practices such as terracing and the conservation of a continuous vegetation cover, but the best approach is certainly continuous and diffuse land maintenance.
DG: As already stated by Dr. Stanchi, the continuous maintenance is a good practice to face soil erosion. At the same time, I believe that erosion control, especially in agriculture, should result from raising people’ awareness on the topic.
InTech: In your opinion, will the world agricultural productivity be affected by soil erosion to such level to endanger the production of primary food supplies?
SS: I think this is already happening, and soil scientists are well aware of this. Besides soil’s productive function, other relevant aspects are the conservation of the soil protective function against natural hazard, and the problem of soil consumption (sealing, urban sprawl etc…). The next step should be to raise awareness on these complex topics also among decision makers and the large public, in order to induce relevant changes in people’s behavior and to promote a more “soil-friendly” way of life.
DG: Soil erosion currently affects the field productivity and this is worsened by climatic changes such as dry spells or floods. In order to prevent such effects, current cultivation should be correctly managed from an environmental point of view, avoiding over-exploitation and other non natural way of farming.
InTech: What are your future plans and your next projects?
SS: I will go on with applied research on soil vulnerability, with a special focus on raising awareness on soil issues as well as divulge soil science further.
DG: My next project will focus on large scale, snow cover modeling for environmental purposes in order to assess its influences in human and natural processes.
InTech: Now that you have published Open Access, do you feel there are more benefits to it in comparison to traditional publishing?
SS: I think that the idea of open access to science and knowledge is fundamental, and the present resources (web etc..) represent a unique opportunity and a big challenge in this sense.
DG: The availability of such a resource is fundamental to disseminate knowledge and ideas. Open Access publications are a great tool for the new generation research.
About the editors:
Danilo Godone holds a PhD in “Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences”, doctorate’s topic was cryosphere’s phenomena monitoring by geomatic methodologies. Currently he is a Post Doc grant holder at Turin University, studying geomatic contribution in land management and analysis. His main research interests are, however, landslide, glaciers and, more generally, natural disasters monitoring. During his activities he has developed skills in GIS, also by developing customised tools with Visual Basic programming, and land surveying with GPS or Laser Scanners. He is a member of NATRISK – Research Centre on Natural Risks in Mountain and Hilly Environments, at the same University. He acts as a freelance consultant in the same topics mentioned above for other research bodies, training agencies and professionals. Other than his research and professional activities, he carries on his passion for mountain by practising hiking, snowshoeing and climbing. Additionally, he is a martial arts and self-defence instructor.
Silvia Stanchi holds a PhD in “Agriculture, Forest and Food Sciences”, with a focus on fractal theory approaches for the study of soil aggregation and structure.
Currently, she is a Post Doc at Turin University working on soil hazards and vulnerability in mountain areas.
Silvia Stanchi is a member of NATRISK – Research Centre on Natural Risks in Mountain and Hilly Environments at the same University. She is actively involved in outreach and soil issues awareness raising activities targeting kids and the large public, as well as in international training activities focusing on mountain development and management.