Understanding mountain soils
In all terrestrial ecosystems – but in mountain landscapes in particular – the area of fertile soil is limited and increasingly under pressure stemming from competing land uses. In addition, inadequate governance, increasing population demands,
land-use planning and unsustainable management, among other factors, have significantly facilitated land-use conversion, mostly from forests to agriculture, which has increased degradation in general but soil degradation in particular. As a result, mountain soils increasingly face problems such as water erosion, loss of organic matter, nutrient mining, loss of biodiversity, landslides, and soil and water contamination which, in turn, affect and reduce productivity, provision of goods and services, and resilience.
All this indicates that soil degradation needs to be prevented and reversed. Through appropriate rehabilitation techniques, degraded soils can, in some cases, be rehabilitated to continue performing their core functions and contributions to ecosystem services. Although avoiding soil degradation in the first place is vastly more cost-effective than their eventual rehabilitation/restoration, the latter increases the area available to generate ecosystem services without necessitating additional land use conversion.
Soils in mountains are highly diverse and, thanks to recent efforts to improve their management and governance, some sound technologies for sustainable foodproduction are now available that can be adapted and disseminated using diverse approaches and tools. However, more urgent actions are needed to implement appropriate land-use planning together with sustainable management and protection of soils.
Source : ASDMA