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In a new report, DENIN director expresses concern over accelerating rate of land degradation

Ronald Amundson

A new paper published by the head of the Delaware Environmental Institute at University of Delaware expresses concern over the rising rates of soil erosion and its potential impact on the quality of human life in the future.

The review, “Soil and human security in the 21st century,” was published in leading journal Science. In many parts of the world, soil conditions are suffering from wind and water erosion, especially in areas are facing intense drought, flood patterns and weather conditions exacerbated by climate change.

Don Sparks, director of DENIN, said that even though there is still plenty of productive land in the United States, human development is disrupting natural processes in the soil faster than it can regenerate itself. This could lead to a challenging future for human food security.

“As the population is growing, some of our very best soils are being developed. We’re taking this vital soil out of production that would otherwise be used to grow crops to help feed the growing population," said Sparks.

Sparks also thinks that Delaware’s industrial past could catch up with us. He and his colleagues are looking into how rising water levels might influence the movement of metals and industrial chemicals buried in the soil.


“We’re looking at impacts of sea level rise on the cycling of contaminants

there are a lot of legacy sites along the coast, along water bodies where there are contaminants such as metals and organic materials," said Sparks.


As sea levels continue to rise along the coast of Delaware, farmers could be seeing more instances of saltwater intrusion.

Sparks added that there farmers can play an important role in keeping soils healthy. Many Delaware farmers, for example, practice no-till farming, a technique that’s been shown to reduce erosion.

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