Agron. Sustain. Dev.
Volume 28, Number 1, January-March 2008
Page(s) 65 - 86
Published online 29 February 2008
Agron. Sustain. Dev. 28 (2008) 65-86
DOI: 10.1051/agro:2007062

Soil-erosion and runoff prevention by plant covers. A review

Víctor Hugo Durán Zuazo1, 2 and Carmen Rocío Rodríguez Pleguezuelo1, 2

1  IFAPA Centro Camino de Purchil, Apdo. 2027, 18080-Granada, Spain
2  USDA-National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, 275 S. Russell Street, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2077, USA

(Accepted 10 December 2007; published online 29 February 2008)

Abstract - Soil erosion is a critical environmental problem throughout the world's terrestrial ecosystems. Erosion inflicts multiple, serious damages in managed ecosystems such as crops, pastures, or forests as well as in natural ecosystems. In particular, erosion reduces the water-holding capacity because of rapid water runoff, and reduces soil organic matter. As a result, nutrients and valuable soil biota are transported. At the same time, species diversity of plants, animals, and microbes is significantly reduced. One of the most effective measures for erosion control and regeneration the degraded former soil is the establishment of plant covers. Indeed, achieving future of safe environment depends on conserving soil, water, energy, and biological resources. Soil erosion can be controlled through a process of assessment at regional scales for the development and restoration of the plant cover, and the introduction of conservation measures in the areas at greatest risk. Thus, conservation of these vital resources needs to receive high priority to ensure the effective protection of managed and natural ecosystems. This review article highlights three majors topics: (1) the impact of erosion of soil productivity with particular focus on climate and soil erosion; soil seal and crust development; and C losses from soils; (2) land use and soil erosion with particular focus on soil loss in agricutural lands; shrub and forest lands; and the impact of erosion in the Mediterranean terraced lands; and (3) the impact of plant covers on soil erosion with particular focus on Mediterranean factors affecting vegetation; plant roots and erosion control; and plant cover and biodiversity.

Key words: soil degradation / soil erosion / biomass / soil productivity / sustainability / climate / global warming / C

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© INRA, EDP Sciences 2008