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Soil erosion induced by land use changes as determined by plough marks and field evidence in the Aksum area (Ethiopia)

Ciampalini, Rossano, Billi, Paolo, Ferrari, Giovanni, Borselli, Lorenzo and Follain, Stéphane 2012. Soil erosion induced by land use changes as determined by plough marks and field evidence in the Aksum area (Ethiopia). Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 146 (1) , pp. 197-208. 10.1016/j.agee.2011.11.006

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The aim of the research presented here was to analyse soil erosion in response to changes in agricultural and soil conservation practices throughout history. The Aksum area (Tigray, northern Ethiopia) presents favourable conditions for the development of a long-term approach for assessing soil conservation techniques that have been applied for centuries (i.e., since the Aksumite kingdom, 400 BC to 800 AD). These techniques have been maintained until the present day, and parts of the terraced systems of the area are still in use. During the 1970s, social and political events led to a remarkable change in land use patterns, and large arable areas were converted into grazing land, resulting in a significant increase in soil loss. The rates of soil erosion were evaluated based on analyses of the deep scratches (plough marks) left on stones in the soil by the maresha, the ard plough pulled by oxen used in agricultural practices of the area, and the patinas, varnishes and weathering rinds exposed by soil loss after the abandonment of the fields. The study results show average rates of soil erosion of 2.8 t ha−1 y−1 and 65.8 t ha−1 y−1 for the soil conservation conditions under traditional agriculture (long-term observations) and accelerated erosion after abandonment (short-term observations), respectively. A comparison using recently calibrated erosion evaluation techniques conducted to support the field measurements revealed a close correlation between the calculated and recorded data.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Ocean Sciences
Subjects: Q Science > QE Geology
Uncontrolled Keywords: Soil erosion; Land management; Plough marks; Terracing; Aksum; Ethiopia
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0167-8809
Last Modified: 19 Mar 2016 23:50

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