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The State of Soil Degradation in Sub-Saharan Africa: Baselines, Trajectories, and Solutions

Listed author(s):
  • Katherine Tully

    ()

    (Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, MD 20742, USA
    Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

  • Clare Sullivan

    ()

    (Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

  • Ray Weil

    ()

    (Department of Environmental Science and Technology, University of Maryland, College Park, Maryland, MD 20742, USA)

  • Pedro Sanchez

    ()

    (Agriculture and Food Security Center, Earth Institute at Columbia University, Palisades, NY 10964, USA)

Registered author(s):

    The primary cause of soil degradation in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is expansion and intensification of agriculture in efforts to feed its growing population. Effective solutions will support resilient systems, and must cut across agricultural, environmental, and socioeconomic objectives. While many studies compare and contrast the effects of different management practices on soil properties, soil degradation can only be evaluated within a specific temporal and spatial context using multiple indicators. The extent and rate of soil degradation in SSA is still under debate as there are no reliable data, just gross estimates. Nevertheless, certain soils are losing their ability to provide food and essential ecosystem services, and we know that soil fertility depletion is the primary cause. We synthesize data from studies that examined degradation in SSA at broad spatial and temporal scales and quantified multiple soil degradation indicators, and we found clear indications of degradation across multiple indicators. However, different indicators have different trajectories—pH and cation exchange capacity tend to decline linearly, and soil organic carbon and yields non-linearly. Future research should focus on how soil degradation in SSA leads to changes in ecosystem services, and how to manage these soils now and in the future.

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    Article provided by MDPI, Open Access Journal in its journal Sustainability.

    Volume (Year): 7 (2015)
    Issue (Month): 6 (May)
    Pages: 1-30

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    Handle: RePEc:gam:jsusta:v:7:y:2015:i:6:p:6523-6552:d:50150
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    1. Astatke, Abiye & Jabbar, Mohammad A. & Tanner, Douglas, 2003. "Participatory conservation tillage research: an experience with minimum tillage on an Ethiopian highland Vertisol," Research Reports 182996, International Livestock Research Institute.
    2. Enfors, Elin & Barron, Jennie & Makurira, Hodson & Rockström, Johan & Tumbo, Siza, 2011. "Yield and soil system changes from conservation tillage in dryland farming: A case study from North Eastern Tanzania," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 98(11), pages 1687-1695, September.
    3. Pedro Sanchez & Glenn Denning & Generose Nziguheba, 2009. "The African Green Revolution moves forward," Food Security: The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food, Springer;The International Society for Plant Pathology, vol. 1(1), pages 37-44, February.
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    6. van Asten, P. J. A. & Barbiero, L. & Wopereis, M. C. S. & Maeght, J. L. & van der Zee, S. E. A. T. M., 2003. "Actual and potential salt-related soil degradation in an irrigated rice scheme in the Sahelian zone of Mauritania," Agricultural Water Management, Elsevier, vol. 60(1), pages 13-32, April.
    7. Scherr, Sara J., 1995. "Economic factors in farmer adoption of agroforestry: Patterns observed in Western Kenya," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 787-804, May.
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