Publisher: Blackwell Date of Publication: 2005
Price: £ 29.95 ISBN: 1 4051 1781 8
Pages: x + 303 Format: Paperback

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1 - Soil erosion - the global context; 2 - Processes and mechanics of soil erosion; 3 - Factors influencing erosion; 4 - Erosion hazard assessment; 5 - Measurement of soil erosion; 6 - Modelling soil erosion; 7 - Strategies for erosion control; 8 - Crop and vegetation management; 9 - Soil management; 10 - Mechanical methods of erosion control; 11 - Implementation; 12 - The way ahead.



Soil erosion might not have the media appeal of global warming but it might be just as important in the long run. It is important therefore that we keep such subjects current especially in light of evidence that links soil erosion with changes in carbon transfer and methane production. There is a significant point to be made here. Subjects seem to come into and out of the media limelight in a similar fashion to texts which seem to go in cycles of production. Soil erosion was a hot topic a decade or so ago but has been quieter of late. The publication of this text reminds us of its importance but its longevity in terms of a third edition (giving it, to date, a 20-year time span) shows that the subject is always with us.

Previous editions established this book as one of the leading publications for higher study giving the new edition much to live up to. It's nice to note that it not only keeps the quality of earlier editions but adds to it in a number of key areas. We start with a global overview - a scene-setter that shows the true extent of the erosion problem. We get a more urgent case via the text box linking erosion with food supply (or more importantly, lack of it). From here, the book goes steadily through the key elements of soil erosion. First, is the mechanism of erosion in terms of water and flow mechanisms. The focus here is just on the main ways in which erosion can occur. It's left to chapter three to account for the variations in erosion - those factors which, combined, can create the damaged landscape. It is typical of the book that we get a range of elements from equations to models and practical cases so that the reader can see the topic in context. Chapter four looks at hazard assessment - erosivity, mainly through a series of case studies from around the world. One of the final elements of that chapter was the introduction of a pro-forma for recording erosion. Such ideas are expanded upon in chapter five which looks at range of experimental designs and equipment. Measurement in itself is no good. Today we need to be able to model the changes we find and show how they might develop. Chapter six, looking at modelling, shows how far the subject has come from the soil loss equation. Chapter 7 takes a different tack. It looks at how we might prevent erosion by using a series of larger-scale landscape models and the factors we need to take into account. This theme is continued in chapter 8 where the value of crop and vegetation management is discussed especially in relation to agriculture. Chapter 9 and 10 look further into erosion control using farming techniques such as tillage controls (chapter 9) or more physical systems (e.g. footpath control) in chapter 10. Of course, all of this is of no use if the policies aren't there in the first place. This gives the discussion in chapter 11 a central focus. Finally, there's a very brief chapter looking ahead to better erosion control and the things needed to bring it about (largely politics).

This is a very good update. It brings new material into play without the padding that this often means for texts. The range of examples means that we get a wide global coverage. The even emphasis on theory, practice and implementation means that we can see all elements of soil erosion. It's made very clear that the author sees the topic this way - not just as a subject but a way to improve people's lives and this is communicated well. Although this is a key text, it is pitched at educator and undergraduate level which reduces its audience but provides these people with an excellent overview. It should be seen as a key text in its field providing us with considerable substance to understand and teach this topic.


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