Sims, Gerald K. Agricultural Research Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Urbana, Illinois.
Last reviewed:May 2017
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- Soil biology
- Chemical degradation
- Toxic chemical spills
- Pesticide use
- Physical degradation
- Effects of climate change
- Soil conservation
- Related Primary Literature
- Additional Reading
Loss in the quality or productivity of soil that is often the result of human activities, such as agriculture practices, deforestation, mining, waste disposal, and chemical spills. Soil degradation is attributed to changes in soil nutrient status, biota, loss of organic matter, deterioration of soil structure, and toxicity due to accumulations of naturally occurring or anthropogenic (human-made) materials (Fig. 1). The effects of soil degradation include loss of agricultural productivity, negative impacts on the environment and economic stability, and exploitation of marginally suitable or virgin land. Opinions as to the present threat from soil degradation range widely, with estimates of up to 25% of the Earth's vegetated land considered by some to be degraded. Although the actual extent of the problem is unclear, it is certain that soil degradation remains a significant issue, particularly for impoverished regions. See also: Soil; Soil chemistry; Soil ecology; Soil fertility; Soil microbiology; Soil sterilization
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