Water erosion and compaction

Water erosion and compaction

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Water erosion and compaction of soil is the leading soil destruction process all over the world.

Erosion is the loss of soil. When raindrops reach the soil, they detach soil particles. The degree to which this happens depends on the size and speed of the falling raindrops. The detached soil particles are subsequently transported by overland water flow. Some particles fill up soil voids, sealing the soil surface. Erosion occurs when the precipitation rate exceeds the infiltration rate of the soil. 

When pressure is applied to the soil surface, compaction takes place. This alters soil properties
such as porosity and permeability. Pores become disconnected and gas and water movement through
soil is impeded, leading to reduced availability of water and oxygen. Root growth becomes restricted.

These fact sheets are based on the findings of the ‘Sustainable agriculture and soil conservation’
(SoCo) project. It is part of a package of ten sheets organised around the three main topics of the
project. The sheets cover the following topics:
– Fact sheet no. 1: Linking soil degradation processes, soil-friendly farming practices and
soil-relevant policy measures;
Soil degradation processes:
– Fact sheet no. 2: Water erosion and compaction;
– Fact sheet no. 3: Organic matter decline;
– Fact sheet no. 4: Salinisation and sodification;
Soil-friendly farming systems and practices:
– Fact sheet no. 5: Conservation agriculture;
– Fact sheet no. 6: Soil-friendly tillage practices;
– Fact sheet no. 7: Soil-friendly farm infrastructure elements;
Soil-relevant policies:
– Fact sheet no. 8: Requirement to keep land in good agricultural and environmental
condition (GAEC);
– Fact sheet no. 9: Agri-environment measures;
– Fact sheet no. 10: Advisory services.
All SoCo fact sheets and project reports can be downloaded at: http://soco.jrc.ec.europa.eu




Sustainable agriculture and soil conservation, Linking soil degradation processes, soil-friendly farming practices and soil-relevant policy measures – Salinisation and sodification; European Communities 2009. (Reproduction is authorised provided the source is acknowledged.)