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Patterns in Environmental Quality and Sustainability from the syllabus

Editor: Meag C
Key facts: Syd R
Illustrator and exam style
question: Bby Aims E
Case study 1: Patty H
Case study 2: Sarah F

Key facts:
The Atmosphere
-4 layers:
TROPOSPHERE - layer with all of the weather; us; 7 and a half miles (12 kilometers)

STRATOSPHERE - ozone layer, which protects us from ultraviolet rays is here; jet-stream is the name
for the strong winds that blow East

MESOSPHERE - (-100C, -148F); coldest layer; protects Earth from meteoroids, there is so much
friction in the air, the meteoroids just burn up causing shooting stars and meteor showers

THERMOSPHERE - is the thickest; very very hot; ranges from 500-2000C
Divided into two layers:
Ionosphere: particles become ionized by the Sun, gives the Aurora look, also the Northern
Lights come from this
Exosphere: molecules are really far apart; this is where the satellites are; this is the outmost
outer layer

Soil degradation: A severe reduction in the quality of soils. This term includes soil erosion,
salinization, and soil exhaustion (loss of fertility).

o Human
o Natural
Rising temperature
Industrial pollution
Flash floods

Colonialism- The creation of borders forcing people to move into villages making them less nomadic
and placing greater pressure on the land.

Overgrazing- Overgrazing occurs when plants are exposed to intensive grazing for extended periods
of time, or without sufficient recovery periods. It can be caused by either livestock in poorly managed
agricultural applications, or by over populations of native or non-native wild animals.
Overgrazing leads to:
v Fewer plants to hold the soil
v Soil surface exposed to wind
v Loose topsoil blows away
v An increase in the amount of poor quality land used to grow crops
v Increase in soil degradation in the dry years

Over Cultivation: the land is continually used for crops and does not have time to recover eventually
all the nutrients are depleted (taken out) and the ground eventually turns to dust.

Deforestation: Cutting down trees leaves soil open to erosion by wind and

Climate Change: Decrease in rainfall and rise in temperatures

Universal soil loss equation: A = R x K x LS x C x P

A - represents the potential long-term average annual soil loss in tonnes per hectare (tons
per acre) per year

R - represents the rainfall and runoff factor by geographic location. The greater the intensity
and duration of the rain storm, the higher the erosion potential.

K - represents the soil erodibility factor. It is the average soil loss in tonnes/hectare
(tons/acre) for a particular soil in cultivated, continuous fallow.

LS - represents the slope length-gradient factor. The LS factor represents a ratio of soil loss
under given conditions to that at a site with the "standard" slope steepness of 9% and slope length of
22.13 m (72.6 ft). The steeper and longer the slope, the higher the risk for erosion.

C - represents the crop/vegetation and management factor. It is used to determine the
relative effectiveness of soil and crop management systems in terms of preventing soil loss.
P - represents the support practice factor. It reflects the effects of practices that will reduce
the amount and rate of the water runoff and thus reduce the amount of erosion. The P factor
represents the ratio of soil loss by a support practice to that of straight-row farming up and down the

The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) predicts the long-term average annual rate of erosion on a
field slope based on rainfall pattern, soil type, topography, crop system and management practices.
USLE only predicts the amount of soil loss that results from sheet or rill erosion on a single slope and
does not account for additional soil losses that might occur from gully, wind or tillage erosion.

Exam style question:

Discuss management strategies that can be used
to help improve soil degradation in Africa.

Case studies:
Karoo, South Africa
Karoo is derived from the Khosian word meaning land of thirst
This area of South Africa Struggles with: low rainfall, arid air, cloudless skies and extreme
There are several factors that cause soil degradation in the Karoo area such as: extreme
flooding, altering landscapes, shift in seasons, drought, loss of grass, badlands and gullies and
degraded areas.

There are socio economic and environmental problems that come about due to the effects of Soil
o Change from mixed grass and shrub to predominantly shrub in the semi-arid Karoo.
o For farmers, the implication is a loss of grazing.
o Very high stock numbers (sheep largely) might be the cause of vegetation change
and soil erosion leading to the formation of badlands and gully systems.
o Due to the changes in landscape, biological diversity features are threatened with
o Lack of evidence for any recovery of these landscapes; suggest major reductions in
stocking density, and the total abandonment of cereal cultivation
Land and sediment
o Degraded land (in particular, overgrazed areas) was mapped. From <3% to 25% of
the Little -Karoo was classified as threatened (the extreme range is dependent on
the classification applied).

As sediment is deposited in farm dams, it reduces their capacity to trap water for
use during dry periods (stock watering, irrigation)
This could result in famine during the dry season.


Management Strategies have been implemented to reduce the spread of soil degradation.
Extreme climate ranges (40C to -4C)
WWF Nedbank Green Trust- supports livestock-monitoring project (2013)
Participatory Action Research (PAR) project is managed by rooibo and livestock farmers
This Project will:
Enhance understanding of how marginal communities can adapt lifestyles
Livelihoods of people due to expected climate change
Document impact of extreme temperatures on human health and activities on farm

Loess Plateau
Soil degradation is an environmental issue that affects many areas of the world, one of the
largest areas affected by this is the Loess Plateau in Chinas northwest region. The Loess Plateau is
the home to over 50 million people, and can be viewed as about the size of France, covering 640,000
square kilometres in the north and middle areas of the Yellow River. The Loess Plateau stretches
over parts of 7 Chinese provinces; Qinghai, Gansu, Ningxia, Inner Mongolia, Shaanxi, Shanxi and
Henan. The soil degradation of this region is due to the centuries of overuse and overgrazing, which
led to the Plateau, having one of the highest erosion rates in the world and serious widespread
poverty. The Watershed Rehabilitation Project has set its goals to help reduce the soil erosion and
restore the vegetation to the land. This project is important as the soil erosion is causing famine and
poverty, being unable to grow crops, and the Yellow River carries yellow silt that rises with the
constant degradation causing the river to flood, destroying many villages and lives. In order to makes
sure the project was going to work and help this land the team divided their work into 2 areas:
economic and social well being of the people, and ecologic health of the environment. A way they
helped the social well being is teaching those indigenous to the area sustainable ways of living such
as keeping goats in pens not allowing them to roam free and erode the soft salty soil found in the
plateau. So far, the results have reduced the silt loads that go into the Yellow River by 1% and the
rehabilitation project improved the degraded environment in the Plateau and has doubled farmers