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

Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn?

by 1,*,† and 2,†
Research Soil Scientist, USDA-Agricultural Research Service, National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment (NLAE), 2110 University Boulevard, Ames, IA 50011-3120, USA
Department of Agronomy, Kansas State University, 2701 Throckmorton Ctr., Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
These authors contributed equally to this work.
Academic Editor: Marc A. Rosen
Sustainability 2015, 7(9), 12490-12501;
Received: 10 July 2015 / Revised: 26 August 2015 / Accepted: 3 September 2015 / Published: 11 September 2015
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Enhancing Soil Health to Mitigate Soil Degradation)
Soil degradation is a global problem caused by many factors including excessive tillage, inappropriate crop rotations, excessive grazing or crop residue removal, deforestation, mining, construction and urban sprawl. To meet the needs of an expanding global population, it is essential for humankind to recognize and understand that improving soil health by adopting sustainable agricultural and land management practices is the best solution for mitigating and reversing current soil degradation trends. This research editorial is intended to provide an overview for this Special Issue of Sustainability that examines the global problem of soil degradation through reviews and recent research studies addressing soil health in Africa, Australia, China, Europe, India, North and South America, and Russia. Two common factors—soil erosion and depletion of soil organic matter (SOM)—emerge as consistent indicators of how “the thin layer covering the planet that stands between us and starvation” is being degraded. Soil degradation is not a new problem but failing to acknowledge, mitigate, and remediate the multiple factors leading to it is no longer a viable option for humankind. We optimistically conclude that the most promising strategies to mitigate soil degradation are to select appropriate land uses and improve soil management practices so that SOM is increased, soil biology is enhanced, and all forms of erosion are reduced. Collectively, these actions will enable humankind to “take care of the soil so it can take care of us”. View Full-Text
Keywords: soil health; soil quality; sustainable intensification; soil biology; erosion; soil organic matter; carbon sequestration soil health; soil quality; sustainable intensification; soil biology; erosion; soil organic matter; carbon sequestration
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MDPI and ACS Style

Karlen, D.L.; Rice, C.W. Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn? Sustainability 2015, 7, 12490-12501.

AMA Style

Karlen DL, Rice CW. Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn? Sustainability. 2015; 7(9):12490-12501.

Chicago/Turabian Style

Karlen, Douglas L., and Charles W. Rice. 2015. "Soil Degradation: Will Humankind Ever Learn?" Sustainability 7, no. 9: 12490-12501.

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