Evaluating How Conservation Helps Reduce Soil Erosion

Jenn Hoskins
14th March, 2024

Evaluating How Conservation Helps Reduce Soil Erosion

Image Source: Natural Science News, 2024

Key Findings

  • In Brazil's Minas Gerais, a study found ways to reduce soil erosion using the InVEST software
  • Soil conservation practices could lower soil loss from 2.75 to 2.23 tons per hectare annually
  • Reforestation and preserving water-adjacent forests further decrease soil loss and sediment export
In Brazil's Minas Gerais region, gullies—deep channels carved by running water—are a major concern, leading to significant soil degradation. Understanding and managing these erosion processes are critical for both recovering degraded lands and mitigating further damage. Researchers at the University of São Paulo have taken a closer look at this issue, employing innovative modeling techniques to predict the outcomes of various land management scenarios[1]. Soil loss is not just a local problem but a global environmental challenge. For instance, studies in the Ethiopian highlands have shown alarming rates of soil loss, emphasizing the need for prioritizing conservation efforts in areas most affected[2]. Similarly, the Cerrado biome in Brazil has also experienced increased soil loss due to land use changes, underscoring the importance of sustainable agricultural practices[3]. The new study used the InVEST software, a tool designed to assess ecosystem services and their trade-offs, to model soil loss and sediment dynamics under different land management scenarios. This approach is not unique to Brazil; it has been applied in various regions to evaluate ecosystem services and guide sustainable development[4]. The scenarios modeled by the researchers included the implementation of soil conservation practices, reforestation, and the preservation of ciliary forests—vegetation surrounding water bodies. Currently, the average annual soil loss in the region is estimated at 2.75 tons per hectare. This figure is concerning when compared to the soil loss tolerance levels in Ethiopia, which range between 2-18 tons per hectare per year, with the higher end being a threshold for severe degradation[2]. The study's findings suggest that with the implementation of soil conservation practices, the mean annual soil loss could be reduced to 2.23 tons per hectare. Reforestation of pasture areas could further decrease soil loss to 1.92 tons per hectare, while the preservation of ciliary forests could result in a mean annual soil loss of 2.36 tons per hectare. Moreover, the study highlighted the benefits of these conservation practices beyond just reducing soil loss. Sediment exportation, which can lead to sedimentation in water bodies, was also predicted to decrease under all three scenarios. Sediment retention and deposition, which are critical for maintaining soil quality and landscape stability, were shown to improve, particularly with the preservation of ciliary forests. The implications of these findings are significant. They demonstrate that targeted actions can make a tangible difference in combating soil erosion. This aligns with previous research from China, showing that terracing, a soil conservation practice, can be effective if properly designed and maintained; however, poorly executed terracing can exacerbate erosion[5]. The Brazilian study provides further evidence that strategic land management, including reforestation and preservation of natural vegetation, can be powerful tools in the fight against soil degradation. In conclusion, the study from the University of São Paulo offers valuable insights into the potential for various land management practices to reduce soil loss and improve sediment retention in Brazil's Minas Gerais region. It builds upon and complements previous research, emphasizing the need for a comprehensive approach to land management that considers both the benefits and potential trade-offs of ecosystem services[4]. These findings are crucial for policymakers and land managers aiming to devise effective strategies for soil and water conservation, ensuring the sustainability of agriculture, and the preservation of vital ecosystem services.



Main Study

1) Assessment of the impact of conservation measures by modeling soil loss in Minas Gerais, Brazil.

Published 12th March, 2024


Related Studies

2) Spatiotemporal dynamics of soil loss and sediment export in Upper Bilate River Catchment (UBRC), Central Rift Valley of Ethiopia.


3) Assessment of current and future land use/cover changes in soil erosion in the Rio da Prata basin (Brazil).


4) Ecosystem service trade-offs and spatial non-stationary responses to influencing factors in the Loess hilly-gully region: Lanzhou City, China.


5) May agricultural terraces induce gully erosion? A case study from the Black Soil Region of Northeast China.


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