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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 66 No. 3, p. 948-958
     
    Received: Jan 26, 2001
    Published: May, 2002


    * Corresponding author(s): masanche@ual.es
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doi:10.2136/sssaj2002.9480

Soil Quality in Mediterranean Mountain Environments

  1. M. Sánchez-Marañón *a,
  2. M. Sorianoa,
  3. G. Delgadob and
  4. R. Delgadob
  1. a Departamento de Edafología y Química Agrícola, CITE II-B, Universidad de Almería, 04120 Almería, Spain
    b Departamento de Edafología y Química Agrícola, Facultad de Farmacia, Universidad de Granada, 18071 Granada, Spain

Abstract

Unsuitable land use worldwide has led to environmental degradation. Land use effects on the environmental component of soil quality were assessed in 47 benchmark soils of three natural environments (Xerolls, Xerepts, and Cryepts) in southern Spain. Within each environment, soil groups with traditional land uses were compared with native sites. Soil quality changes were inferred by measuring the relative changes in chemical and physical soil properties. Irrigated terraces, rainfed cropland, and grassland, all within Xerepts, and grazed thyme scrub land were degraded with respect to native sites (significant differences at P < 0.05). In all cases, total porosity, macroporosity, and cation exchange capacity declined by more than 18% (−0.11 cm3 cm−3), 30% (−0.11 cm3 cm−3), and 48% [−10.5 cmol(+) kg−1], respectively. Except in irrigated terraces, soil erodibility increased by as much as 59% (+0.16 USLE factor). Substantial losses of soil organic C (37%, −14.7 Mg ha−1), available water (52%, −36.2 mm), total N (65%, −1.7 Mg ha−1), and rooting depth (68%, −39 cm) were also observed in grassland and thyme scrub land. These changes suggest adverse effects on environmental protection functions of soil because of soil compaction and/or elimination of structural binding agents. Scanning electron microscopy images confirmed these morphological changes in microaggregates. Similar changes did not occur in cropland and grassland within Cryepts or in planted pine forest land. Reforestation with pine (Pinus nigra Arnold, Pinus sylvestris L., and Pinus uncinata Mill. ex Mirb.) provided organic cements and fungal hyphae that reinforce soil aggregation as well as ecologically valuable humus. Because cropland and grassland were able to recover the natural soil properties without human activity, we deduce that Cryepts are resilient.

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Copyright © 2002. Soil Science SocietyPublished in Soil Sci. Soc. Am. J.66:948–958.