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Soil Degradation in Canada

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November 12, 2004 Research Paper, CT111 "Regional Landscapes in Context" Jon Munro Soil Degradation in Canada Soil has always played an important role in the development of mankind. It is used to grow the food we eat, provide the foundation for the buildings we live in, support plant life, and is a key part of cleansing the earth of pollutants. Human activity has disrupted soil formation and with population increasing the pressures we put on soil will undoubtedly rise as well. The Grand River watershed is an area which has experienced increased agriculture and urbanization in a fairly small time frame. Several environmental issues have emerged from the quick development of the region. This paper will focus on soil erosion, soil contamination, and salinization. Both the problem and possible solution will be examined. For years we have ignored the repercussions of human settlement and agriculture, now with the effects prevalent in our society we are taking notice and action, there is not time like the present to make a change. Historically, Canada was occupied by indigenous people whose lifestyle differed greatly from contemporary Western society. The Natives were primarily hunter gatherers who developed a deep and respectful connection with earth. ...read more.


The land was taken up rapidly after the townships were opened in 1792 to 1812, except in the wet areas. The light-textured soils, however, could not stand up to the regular cropping. As the original humus became exhausted, productivity declined and wind erosion increased so that farm abandonment became common."(1966:252). Relocating to new farming areas only led to those areas becoming less fertile. Contour farming is a style of tilling at right angles to the slope of the land, the ridges created hold in the water rather than allowing it to flow down eroding as it goes, this new method can decrease erosion up to 50%. Another method to help decline erosion is timing. Spring is optimal since if you plow in the fall erosion can occur all winter long. Strip farming involves planting in wide rows with other plants in between to maximize ground coverage. Many other techniques have been tried but a lot of times new problems spawn and fertilizers become the answer to those problems. Soil contamination is either solid or liquid substances mixing in with the natural soils. Many times the contaminants attach themselves to the soil itself, spreading with erosion, other times they lie dormant between soil particles. ...read more.


This involves the building of artificial drainage systems in local areas, growing salt tolerant crops, reducing deep tillage, returning the manure and organic matter, and eliminating seepage from irrigation. Culmination of these various types of soil degradation ultimately results in infertile soil, often referred to as exhausted soil. When this occurs land is no longer suitable for agricultural use. Many other environmental issues are affected by soil degradation including the water, from eroded, contaminated soil. In the 19th century Canadians became more aware of their physical geography and realized they needed to adapt in order to preserve the land. Falconer, Fahey, and Thompson remark on the attitude at this time, stating, "Adaptation to these newly perceived characters and processes can be seen on all scales in the agricultural geography of southern Ontario. In improved crop rotations and the greater emphasis on manure, shelter plantings and woodlots; in the areal specialization of agriculture; in the abandonment of large areas; and in the establishment of Algonquin Park; in these, one discovers portions of the adaptive "strategy" of the latter part of the nineteenth century." General et al. (1974:17). In contemporary society conservation is still an area of importance with newer technology bringing fresh ideas and methods to preserve our land. ...read more.

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