Making soil erosion understandable and governable at the river basin scale for food, water and hydropower sustainability in Latin America

Every year 12 million hectares of land are lost to soil erosion

This soil is lost mostly through unsustainable agricultural and forestry practices. But the impact of this soil erosion affects those very same industries by reducing farmland, polluting waterways that supply the fishing industry and aquaculture and reducing hydropower capacity due to reservoir siltation.

At the same time, the demand for global food production is increasing with estimates suggesting it will need to grow by 70% to feed the world’s growing population.

Soil erosion is complex in its nature and slow moving – its impact cannot always immediately be seen. It poses a serious threat to water and nutrient retention, biodiversity and plant primary productivity on agricultural land. Yet, agro-ecological practices can stop it and even reverse it.

<p>Will Blake Making soil erosion understandable and governable at the river basin scale for food, water and hydropower sustainability in Latin America. Chile<br></p>
<p>Will Blake Making soil erosion understandable and governable at the river basin scale for food, water and hydropower sustainability in Latin America. Chile<br></p>

Reversing soil erosion: a global and Latin American challenge

Developing countries are at particular risk of soil erosion and its impact on communities. This is because their soil vegetative cover is especially widespread and agricultural processes are often not effective at protecting topsoil. The problem of soil erosion is a cultural one. 

This project brings together researchers from Argentina, Brazil and Mexico in a Chile-UK partnership to develop a new, integrated approach for understanding and governing soil erosion at a Rapel River basin scale. This will allow soil erosion challenged to be addressed in Latin America and globally.

Led by Will Blake, Professor of Catchment Science on the UK side alongside Professor Iain Stewart and Dr Claire Kelly, the project brings together specialists from the Schumacher College Universidad Austral de Chile, Federal Fluminense University, Brazil, University of San Luis, Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora-ITSON, Mexico and independent researcher, Dr Alfredo del Valle.

<p>Will Blake Making soil erosion understandable and governable at the river basin scale for food, water and hydropower sustainability in Latin America. Chile<br></p>
<p>Will Blake Making soil erosion understandable and governable at the river basin scale for food, water and hydropower sustainability in Latin America. Chile<br></p>

A Global Alliance for Soil Erosion Control

1. Build capacity for long-term transformation

The project will build four inter-dependent capacities in the test-hub river basic to enable long-term transformation. This includes shared leadership, a clear understanding of the complexity of the basin’s specific soil erosion processes and innovative strategy, a strong device to measure the soil erosion to track its evolution and a team to ensure the transformation continues long-term.

2. Create a global capability to disseminate approach

The team will ensure scientific validation of the project approach to reverse soil erosion, developing resources for training including a task force that can disseminate the approach, providing political support and funding.

3. Establish local systems to reverse soil erosion in Chile

This project will build management systems to successfully implement the innovations to be implemented, establishing mechanisms for monitoring and measuring of soil erosion processes, mobilising key resources and networks

4. Make soil erosion governable

The team aim to establish a Global Alliance for Soil Erosion Control with a mandate to with a mandate to provide scientific, methodological, political and financial support to river-basin interventions all over the developing world.

Research partners: 

Dr Claudio Bravo-Linares (CHI PI), a senior lecturer specialised in environmental forensics sciences, Universidad Austral de Chile, Chile

Dr Sergio de los Santos, Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora-ITSON, Mexico

Dr Alfredo del Valle, (independent researcher hosted by Universidad Austral de Chile) and the “Participatory Innovation Praxis”

Dr Jon Rae, Schumacher College

Dr Mona Nasseri, Schumacher College

Dr Roberto Meigikos dos Anjos, Professor of Nuclear Physics, Federal Fluminense University, Brazil

Hugo Velasco, Professor of the Physics Department of University of San Luis and Independent researcher of CONICET, Argentina.