Interdisciplinary approach the only way to address devastating effects of soil erosion | 2/7/2019 | Staff
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Soil erosion can have a devastating impact on traditional farming landscapes in developing countries. But its effects can only be fully addressed through significant advances in interdisciplinary scientific and societal approaches, according to new research.

A major international study led by the University of Plymouth has shown that traditional pastoralist communities—such as the Maasai in East Africa—are abundantly aware that climate change and intensive grazing are having a marked effect on the resources they rely on for survival.

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But finding solutions is not an easy task. The communities face significant cultural and political barriers when it comes to implementing soil conservation measures, meaning that huge swathes of former pasture land are being lost or degraded.

The new research, published in Environmental Research Letters, suggests an interdisciplinary approach is the only way to secure real and lasting change. That includes engaging local communities to work together to see how they contribute to the problem and how they can have a significant role in solving it.

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The study is the result of the Jali Ardhi (meaning 'care for the land' in Swahili) project, funded by the Natural Environment Research Council, the Arts and Humanities Research Council and the Economic and Social Research Council, as part of UK Research and Innovation's Global Challenges Research Fund.

It focussed on the East African Rift System of Tanzania, where soil erosion has created huge canyons in the heart of Maasai pastoral lands.

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Working in collaboration with the local District Council and Maasai communities, scientists conducted a series of field-based research including soil degradation surveys, lake and floodplain sediment coring, mapping with satellite imagery and evaluation of past aerial photographs.

They also completed a suite of interviews and workshops with community leaders,...
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