One of the topics studied in GCSE Geography is soil erosion and degradation. This quiz looks not only at the causes of soil erosion, but also the effects - such as how it damages ecosystems.
In the past 150 years half the topsoil on the planet has been lost. In addition compaction, loss of soil structure, loss of nutrients and an increase of salinity are damaging other parts of soil, destroying its ecosystems and the chances for plants to reclaim the land and begin to form a new ecosystem.
This loss of soil also damages other environments. It increases the pollution in the waterways and the sedimentation in streams and rivers. Blocking these waterways reduces the drainage and so removes the possibility of fish and other aquatic life breeding and occupying these valuable resources.
When you are studying soil erosion and degradation you start to think about how something as seemingly insignificant as soil is the foundation of all the living things. The nutrients that the plants need to grow and begin the food chain are found in the soil. And most of the nutrient cycles that return these valuable compounds into the food chain take place in the ecosystems that are hidden within the soil.
Whilst natural ecosystems support and are supported by the soil, agriculture often damages it and is the cause of soil loss. Farming practices increase the process of soil run-off. Huge areas of rainforest are being cut down to provide land for coffee, cotton, palm oil, soya beans and wheat. These crops are unable to trap the soil as the forest did and so run-off increases. In places of high rainfall, as the former rainforest is, a single season can be enough to leave the soil completely unable to support plant growth.
Have a go at this quiz and test your knowledge of the causes and the effects of soil erosion and degradation.