A review of the impacts of degradation threats on soil properties in the UK

A - Papers appearing in refereed journals

Gregory, A. S., Ritz, K., McGrath, S. P., Quinton, J. N., Goulding, K. W. T., Jones, R. J. A., Harris, J. A., Bol, R., Wallace, P., Pilgrim, E. S. and Whitmore, A. P. 2015. A review of the impacts of degradation threats on soil properties in the UK. Soil Use and Management. 31 (Suppl. 1), pp. 1-15.

AuthorsGregory, A. S., Ritz, K., McGrath, S. P., Quinton, J. N., Goulding, K. W. T., Jones, R. J. A., Harris, J. A., Bol, R., Wallace, P., Pilgrim, E. S. and Whitmore, A. P.
Abstract

National governments are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of their soil resources and are shaping strategies accordingly. Implicit in any such strategy is that degradation threats and their potential effect on important soil properties and functions are defined and understood. In this paper, we aimed to review the principal degradation threats on important soil properties in the UK, seeking quantitative data where possible. Soil erosion results in the removal of important topsoil and, with it, nutrients, C and porosity. A decline in soil organic matter principally affects soil biological and microbiological properties, but also impacts on soil physical properties because of the link with soil structure. Soil contamination affects soil chemical properties, affecting nutrient availability and degrading microbial properties, whilst soil compaction degrades the soil pore network. Soil sealing removes the link between the soil and most of the spheres', significantly affecting hydrological and microbial functions, and soils on re-developed brownfield sites are typically degraded in most soil properties. Having synthesized the literature on the impact on soil properties, we discuss potential subsequent impacts on the important soil functions, including food and fibre production, storage of water and C, support for biodiversity, and protection of cultural and archaeological heritage. Looking forward, we suggest a twin approach of field-based monitoring supported by controlled laboratory experimentation to improve our mechanistic understanding of soils. This would enable us to better predict future impacts of degradation processes, including climate change, on soil properties and functions so that we may manage soil resources sustainably.

KeywordsSoil Science
Year of Publication2015
JournalSoil Use and Management
Journal citation31 (Suppl. 1), pp. 1-15
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)doi:10.1111/sum.12212
Open accessPublished as ‘gold’ (paid) open access
Funder project or codeDelivering Sustainable Systems (SS) [ISPG]
FunderBiotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
DEFRA - Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs UK
ISSN02660032
PublisherWiley

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