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Introduction

  • Jagdish Chander Dagar
  • Anil Kumar Singh
Chapter

Abstract

The problem of accelerated erosion has been in existence since the advent of agriculture and thought to be responsible for the collapse of numerous, once-thriving civilizations that vanished because of the degradation of the very resource base on which they flourished. Soil erosion prediction technology began over 70 years ago when Austin Zingg published a relationship between soil erosion by water and land slope and length, followed shortly by a relationship by Dwight Smith that expanded this equation to include conservation practices. But, it was nearly 20 years before this work led to the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), perhaps the foremost achievement in soil erosion prediction in the last century. The total land area affected by water erosion is estimated to be about 1 billion ha, of which 750 million ha are severely affected. There are also regional hot spots of erosion including the Himalayan–Tibetan ecosystem in South Asia, the Loess Plateau in China, the subhumid and semiarid regions of sub-Saharan Africa, highlands of Central America, the Andean region, Haiti and the Caribbean. Soil erosion by water usually begins when raindrops first strike the land’s surface and detach and transport soil particles which cause sealing and compacting of the soil surface. Eroded soil is transported downslope by raindrop splash. When runoff water concentrates, and flows through fingerlike channels (rills) from upland areas carrying soil particles, the erosion is called rill erosion, and the soil eroded from between rills is called inter-rill erosion. Once rill erosion begins, it typically progresses up slope by a series of intensely erodible head cuts. Places, where concentrated runoff from a slope is sufficient in volume and velocity to cut deep trenches or where concentrated water continues cutting in the same groove (such as rill) making a deep soil incision, are referred to as gully. The advance stage of gully erosion leads to ravine erosion. There may be both natural (neo-tectonic) and anthropogenic factors responsible for ravine formation. Recent studies indicate that gully erosion is one of the most dangerous threats to agricultural lands and represents an important sediment source in a range of environments; and gullies are effective links for transferring runoff and sediment from uplands to valley bottoms and permanent channels where they aggravate off-site effects of water erosion. During the last two decades, a significant progress in the understanding of gully erosion and its controlling factors has been made, and bulk of research papers have been brought out on various aspects of gully erosion including on modelling predicting the processes of gully erosion. Yet, there remain several research gaps and unanswered questions related to gully erosion, which include historical studies on gully erosion for better understanding of different stages of their formation; appropriate measuring techniques for monitoring or better understanding of the geological and hydrological parameters and processes of gully development; interaction of hydrological and other soil degradation processes; impact of climate and environmental changes on soil erosion processes; development of effective and reliable gully erosion models; and effective gully prevention and control measures and watershed-based management options. In the present book, an attempt has been made to address some of these aspects along with impacts of ravine formation on socio-economic and policy issues.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jagdish Chander Dagar
    • 1
  • Anil Kumar Singh
    • 2
  1. 1.Indian Council of Agricultural SciencesPusaIndia
  2. 2.RVS Krishi Vishwa Vidyalaya, R. V. S.GwaliorIndia

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