Efforts to tackle land degradation worldwide have spurred the adoption of soil and water conservation (SWC) practices intended to reduce surface runoff and erosion. Despite their widespread implementation, missing or incomplete monitoring remains a pervasive problem preventing evaluation of how well SWC practices meet these aims. Key metrics to evaluate SWC efficacy are the production of flow per unit rainfall (runoff ratio), and exported sediment (sediment concentration). We develop a method to assess changes in these metrics in the absence of a flow rating curve, using more complete and reliable measurements of stage (flow depth). We apply these methods to incomplete monitoring datasets collected from five watersheds included in the Tana and Beles Integrated Water Resource Development Project (TBIWRDP) in the Abay (Blue Nile) basin, Ethiopia. Changes in runoff ratio and sediment concentration relative to the first year of treatment varied by season. In the long wet season (Kiremt) that generates most runoff and erosion, reductions in runoff ratio occurred in three watersheds, and reductions in sediment concentration in four watersheds. Reductions in the runoff ratio were directly proportional to the areal density of SWC treatments in the watersheds, suggesting that SWC treatments were effective in controlling runoff and erosion. We suggest that stage and sediment concentration information can be used to assess watershed responses to SWC treatments. Focusing on these relatively robust measurements, may facilitate the design of reliable and affordable monitoring programs, and ultimately facilitate improved financing approaches based on reasonable estimates of likely SWC practice performance.
Bosnia and Herzegovina (BIH) is developing country facing extensive land degradation. As a post-conflict society with underlying poor socio-economic conditions, the value of land and its degradation status are not perceived to be an important problem neither a priority to address. BIH currently exists as a decentralized state, where land and land resources are under exclusive jurisdiction of two entities and one district, rather than state-level legislation. Complex land related administration between entities functioning independently from each other, and thus not sinchronized, leads to frequent political conflicts about land property, and limited data exchange which may exacerbate current land degradation. This paper investigates (i) the institutional setting and policy framework related to land, discussing the effectiveness and limitations of the current policies in this post-conflict society; (ii) stakeholders’ perception of land degradation under such complex institutional and policy structures; and (iii) the current state of land degradation, with a focus on soil erosion as one of the most important indicators in BIH. Communication and cooperation are major challenges for sustainable land management in post conflict societies. The existence of a policy framework is important, but not sufficient if implementation is weak and the perception of decision makers differs. Limited data on the impact of 1992 War on soil and land status represents an additional challenge to combat land degradation. Reliable national data on land degradation are crucial for assessment and development of strategic and policy frameworks devoted to those issues and to raise awareness on how to foster their implementation.
Soil clay content is one of the primary intrinsic soil properties affecting soil erodibility, but few studies have tested the effects of clay amendment on soil wind erosion. The objective of this study was therefore to evaluate the effect of progressive clay amendment on soil wind erosion in the inland Pacific Northwest (iPNW), where there is a high soil erodibility risk due to the arid and semi-arid environment. Clay amendment significantly increased crust crushing energy when physical soil crusts formed after simulated rainfall. Crusts were then subject to simulated tillage to create an erodible soil surface before determining wind erosion in a wind tunnel. Soil loss significantly decreased with increasing clay amendment, even for low clay amendments (2%). In addition, the rate of change in erosion decreased with increasing amounts of clay amendment. Clay amendment was more effective in decreasing soil loss for two sandy loams or soil types with lower clay content. Clay amendment decreased soil loss primarily due to its impact on increasing aggregate geometric mean diameter (GMD), but aggregate crushing energy is also important in decreasing soil loss in terms of decreasing abrasion flux. Clay amendment is thus an effective way to restrain land deterioration in terms of increasing crust crushing energy, aggregate GMD, and decreasing abrasion flux.
Extreme droughts of increased frequency due to climate change poses great challenges to the sustainability of plantations in drylands worldwide. Millions of plantations on China’s Loess Plateau which are mainly in drylands are threatened by serious degradation due to water scarcity. Here we aim to disentangle the impacts of combinations of terracing and mulching on water use strategy and its response to extreme droughts in a rainfed jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) plantation on the semiarid Loess Plateau, using three-year in situ field observations. Pruned jujube branches and maize straw were mulched on half-moon terraces to form two combined treatments, referred to as JBT and MST, respectively. The efficacy of these two combinations on the water use strategy of jujube trees was compared with terracing alone (SHT) and control (no terrace). We found that extreme drought clearly reduced soil water storage (SWS) under all treatments. However, the combined treatments showed significantly (P<0.05) higher SWS than the SHT and control. Furthermore, the combined treatments enhanced soil water use in deep layers during both normal and drought years, thus helping jujube trees to resist droughts. Moreover, the extreme drought significantly reduced transpiration whereas the moderate drought increased transpiration at both seasonal and annual scales. Nonetheless, the combined treatments were associated with enhanced transpiration compared to the SHT and control during drought periods. Finally, jujube trees exhibited isohydric behavior which also helped them to cope with prolonged droughts. Overall, the findings here may provide insights into land management of dryland plantations worldwide under climate change.
The widespread construction of photovoltaic (PV) power stations within northwest China poses an environmental threat because of severe wind erosion and land degradation attributed to unique wind control issues caused by the power stations. In this study, various engineering (E), plant (V), and biocrust (B) treatments were evaluated for their effectiveness in the reduction of wind erosion. The placement of solar panels with wide wind inlets and narrow wind outlets caused wind velocity reductions at the inlet that sharply increased at the outlet and formed distinct zones of deflation, direct shear abrasion (DSA), and deposition. The engineering treatments reduced the wind velocities and sand transport rates, in comparison to the control with E4 (DSA zone + a gravel/deposition zone + red clay) being the most effective with an 87% reduction in the total sand transport rate. Both plant treatments V1 (Sedum aizoon L.) and V2 (Pennisetum alopecuroides (L.) Spreng) increased the aerodynamic roughness, and decreased the sand transport rates and the sand erosion-deposition budget under or between the solar panels. Treatment B2 (moss crust) decreased the sand transport rate and sand erosion-deposition budget under the solar panels in comparison to the control. All the treatments had effects on reducing wind erosion, and we strongly recommend the use of moss crust, gravel mulch, and red clay mulch in the deflation zones, DSA zones, and deposition zones, respectively, to control the severe wind erosion at these PV power stations located in sandy areas.
Satellite-based solar-induced chlorophyll fluorescence (SIF) has the potential for an early detection and accurate impact assessment of meteorological drought on vegetation photosynthesis. However, how the response of satellite SIF to meteorological drought varies under different climatic conditions and biome types remains poorly understood. In this study, we determined the drought time-scale at which the vegetation photosynthesis response was highest based on the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) and satellite SIF, and examined how the sensitivity of SIF signals from different ecosystems to drought varied along an aridity gradient in northern China. The results showed that spatial variability of the annual maximum SIF was constrained by wetness conditions and biome types. Annual maximum SIF was positively correlated with SPEI in 57.9% of vegetated lands (P < 0.05). 34.8% of humid ecosystems were characterized by a significant SIF-SPEI correlation (P < 0.05). This percentage reached 44%, 71.4% and 86.2% for arid, sub-humid and semi-arid ecosystems, respectively. The variation of SIF-SPEI correlations was a Gaussian function of the aridity index (AI), with the highest SIF-SPEI correlation appearing in the AI bin of 0.4 (0.37-0.46). The drivers for this pattern were vegetation composition and water availability. The variation of SIF time-scales in response to SPEI was a linear function of the AI, but the slope varied among biomes. To summarize with increasing aridity drought-induced declines in vegetation photosynthesis will be quicker and more significant.
Stopping land degradation is one of the biggest challenges worldwide and particularly in Burundi, which currently faces unprecedented rates of soil loss and food insecurity. This paper proposes a different development discourse on how to stop land degradation, and presents results and lessons learned of a bottom-up inclusive approach implemented since 2014 in Burundi: the Integrated Farm Planning approach (PIP) approach. This approach aims to build a solid foundation for sustainable change towards enhanced food production and good land stewardship, based on three foundation principles (motivation, stewardship and resilience) and three guiding principles (empowerment, integration and collaboration). Findings from an impact study on the PIP approach and testimonies of farmers from a qualitative study show profound changes in land management practices and diversity of activities on the farm, as well as in the social cohesion in households and villages. Based on a vision and a plan, nearly 80,000 motivated households are currently actively involved to stop land degradation and make their farms more productive, while in all PIP villages concrete collective action is undertaken for sustainable land stewardship. Given that these actions are widespread and come along with a change in mind-set rooted in all three foundation principles, the paper concludes that the PIP approach is able to effectively build a foundation for sustainable change. Five key lessons from this experience reveal the key elements of a different development discourse that actually motivates and mobilises farmers to stop land degradation.
Soil salinization is a serious restrictive factor of sustainable agricultural development, and its monitoring accuracy is mainly influenced by such factors as mineral composition, organic matter, and Fractional Vegetation Cover (FVC). Previous research mostly focused on the first two factors and the study of FVC is scarce and unsystematic. In order to systematically explore the effect of FVC, we monitored the soil salinization with different vegetation coverage in Jiefangzha Irrigation District in Inner Mongolia using satellite remote sensing. From May to August 2018, we carried out field sampling at different depths (0-20cm, 0-40cm, 0-60cm) in each month, and calculated FVC and spectral covariates using GF-1 satellite images in the corresponding sampling period. Based on the FVC division criteria of Inner Mongolia, we took the following steps: (1) setting up control treatment A (the full data with undivided FVC,TA) and experimental treatment B (bare land, TB), C (mid-low FVC, TC), D (mid FVC, TD) and E (high FVC, TE); (2) conducting the Best Subset Selection (BSS) for all spectral covariates at different depths of each treatment; and (3) constructing the Soil Salt Content (SSC) inversion models by Partial Least Square Regression (PLSR), Cubist, and Extreme Learning Machine (ELM). The results indicated that classifying FVC could improve the stability and predictive ability of the models. The results can provide references for soil salinization prevention and agricultural production in Jiefangzha Irrigation District and other areas with the same vegetation cover.
Microbial biomass (MB) production and turnover strongly affect soil organic carbon (SOC) accumulation. Microbial carbon use efficiency (CUE) and MB turnover in paddy soil were determined using a novel substrate-independent H218O labeling approach and the effect of long-term fertilization with mineral (NPK) or combined (NPK+OM (manure)) amendments in 0-10, 10-20, and 20-30 cm depths were investigated. Long-term fertilization increased microbial C uptake, CUE, and growth rates, and all indexes were the highest in the NPK+OM treatment. The CUE ranged between 0.07 and 0.23 and showed variable behavior with depth: it reduced in the control treatment, indicating that more C was allocated to energy production than biomass growth, and increased in fertilized soils, showing the shift of C usage for biomass growth. The highest CUE was observed at 20-30 cm in NPK and NPK+OM and indicated that microorganisms overcome the nutrient deficiency in deep soil layers by keeping high C uptake rates at a constant CUE. MBC turnover was more rapid in NPK (10-70 d) and NPK+OM (40-65 d) compared to control (80 d) and intensified with the depth. These findings highlight that under long-term fertilization MB turnover can be controlled by CUE. These shifts in the strategies of microorganisms functioning can explain the accumulation of SOC in heavily fertilized paddy soils.
Excessive salts in soil inhibit enzyme activity, decrease microbial growth and constrain biochemical functioning, which could be alleviated by soil management and fertilization. However, the effect of consecutive chemical fertilizer on soil bacterial community structure under saline environment is poorly understood. Here, a field randomized block design under four nitrogen fertilization rates (0, 150, 300, and 450 kg N hm-2 y-1) was conducted on coastal salt-affected Fluvo-aquic soil. Effect of nitrogen fertilization rates on soil properties and bacterial community was characterized using Illumina Miseq sequencing for 16S rRNA gene. Results indicated that consecutive chemical N fertilization accelerated the improvement of soil chemical and microbial properties under the paddy rice - winter wheat rotation. Soil bacterial community well responded to the nitrogen fertilization and community richness and diversity increased with the nitrogen rates. Predominant bacterial phyla belonged to Proteobacteria, Chloroflexi, Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria and Planctomycetes, whereas Deltaproteobacteria, Anaerolineae, Alphaproteobacteria, Betaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Actinobacteria and Planctomycetia were dominant bacterial classes. Increasing nitrogen fertilization resulted in an elevation in the relative abundance of classes Alphaproteobacteria, Gammaproteobacteria, Planctomycetia and Nitrospira, and a decline in Anaerolineae, Acidobacteria_Gp6, Cytophagia, Bacilli and Acidobacteria_Gp10. Clear separations in the bacterial communities at class level were observed under different nitrogen fertilization rates. Community structure of classes Alphaproteobacteria, Planctomycetia and Nitrospira was significantly influenced by potential nitrification rate (PNR), and community structure of class Actinobacteria was significantly influenced by carbon mineralization rate (CMR). The results demonstrated that nitrogen fertilization improved nutrients and metabolic activities to more suitable bacterial microhabitats for saline soil.