Land, Soil, Water, Natural Vegetation and Wildlife Resources

Land, Soil, Water, Natural Vegetation and Wildlife Resources

 

·      Land

A very important natural resource, Land covers 30% of the earth’s surface, and not every part is habitable. The cause for the uneven population in certain parts is the varied characteristics of land and climate.

Land is a precious resource that is essential for life on Earth. It provides us with food, shelter, and water. It is also home to a wide variety of plants and animals. Land is used for a variety of purposes, including agriculture, forestry, mining, and urbanization.

Areas that are sparsely populated or uninhabited

Densely populated areas

  • Rugged topography
  • Steep slopes of the mountains
  • Low-lying areas susceptible to water
  • Plains
  • River valleys
  • These are lands suitable for agriculture

Uses of Land

The land is used for different purposes such as agriculture, forestry, mining, building houses, roads and setting up of industries. This is commonly termed Land use.

  • Physical Factors determining the use of land- topography, soil, climate, minerals and availability of water.
  • Human Factors that are human determinants of land use pattern- population and technology

Land can also be classified into private land and community land on the basis of ownership. Private land is owned by individuals, whereas community land is owned by the community for common uses such as the collection of fodder, fruits, nuts or medicinal herbs. Another name for community lands is common property resources. Even though people’s demands are ever-growing availability of land is limited, thus leading people to encroach land to build commercial areas, shopping complexes in urban areas and to expand agricultural land in rural areas. This expansion of agriculture and construction activities also leads to major threats like land degradation, landslides, soil erosion and desertification.

Conservation of Land Resource

Ever Growing population and their growing demands lead to large-scale destruction of forest cover and other natural resources.

Conservation of land resources is crucial for maintaining the health of our planet and ensuring its long-term sustainability. Land provides us with essential resources like food, water, and shelter, and it is home to a vast array of biodiversity. However, human activities such as deforestation, urbanization, and pollution are putting a strain on these resources, leading to soil degradation, water scarcity, and habitat loss.

Meanwhile, given below are the common methods used to conserve land resources:

  • Afforestation
  • land reclamation
  • regulated use of chemical pesticides and fertilisers
  • checks on overgrazing

Importance of Land Resource Conservation

There are numerous reasons why conserving land resources are essential:

Protecting Biodiversity: Land provides habitats for a diverse range of plant and animal species, and conserving these habitats is vital for maintaining biodiversity.

Ensuring Food Security: Land is essential for agriculture, and conserving fertile land is crucial for ensuring food security for a growing population.

Preserving Water Resources: Forests play a vital role in regulating water flow and preventing soil erosion, which helps protect water resources.

Combating Climate Change: Forests absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, helping to mitigate climate change.

Protecting Soil Health: Land degradation can lead to soil erosion and desertification, which can have devastating impacts on agriculture and ecosystems.

·      Soil

The thin layer of grainy substance covers the surface of the earth and is closely linked to the land. Landforms determine the type of soil. Soil is made up of organic matter, minerals and weathered rocks found on the earth through the process of weathering. The right mix of minerals and organic matter makes the soil fertile.

Landslides

The mass movement of rock, debris or earth down a slope is known as Landslide, and it often takes place in conjunction with earthquakes, floods and volcanoes. Meanwhile, a prolonged spell of rainfall can also cause a landslide.

A landslide is a mass movement of rock, debris, or earth down a sloped section of land under the influence of gravity. Landslides can vary in size from small rockfalls to massive landslides that can destroy entire towns.

Types of landslides

There are several different types of landslides, but the most common are:

·        Rotational landslides: Rotational landslides occur when a block of earth rotates downwards on a curved slip surface.

·        Translational landslides: Translational landslides occur when a block of earth slides down a slope on a planar slip surface.

·        Debris flows: Debris flows are a type of landslide that occurs when a mixture of soil, rock, and water flows down a slope. Debris flows can be very destructive and can travel long distances.

Causes of landslides

Landslides can be caused by a variety of factors, including:

·         Rainfall: Heavy rainfall is one of the most common causes of landslides. Rainfall can saturate the soil, making it more likely to slide.

·         Earthquakes: Earthquakes can cause landslides by shaking loose the soil and rocks on a slope.

·         Volcanic eruptions: Volcanic eruptions can cause landslides by creating unstable slopes or by triggering earthquakes.

·         Human activities: Human activities such as deforestation, mining, and construction can also cause landslides by destabilizing slopes.

Effects of landslides

Landslides can have a devastating impact on people and property. They can cause death, injury, and property damage. Landslides can also block roads, disrupt transportation, and damage infrastructure.

Preventing landslides

There are a number of things that can be done to prevent landslides, including:

·        Avoiding construction in landslide-prone areas: This is the most effective way to prevent landslides.

·        Stabilizing slopes: There are a number of techniques that can be used to stabilize slopes, such as terracing, planting vegetation, and building retaining walls.

·        Managing vegetation: Proper vegetation management can help to reduce the risk of landslides.

·        Warning systems: Warning systems can be used to alert people of impending landslides so that they can evacuate to safety.

Landslides are a natural hazard that can be devastating, but there are a number of things that can be done to prevent them and mitigate their effects. By understanding the causes of landslides and taking steps to prevent them, we can protect ourselves and our communities from this hazard.

Mitigation Mechanism

Development in scientific techniques has empowered us to understand what factors cause landslides and how to manage them. Some of the broad mitigation techniques of landslide are given as follows:

  • Hazard mapping to locate areas prone to landslides. Hence, such areas can be avoided for building settlements
  • Construction of a retention wall to stop the land from slipping
  • Increase in the vegetation cover to arrest landslide
  • The surface drainage control works to control the movement of a landslide along with rainwater and spring flows

Factors of Soil Formation

Soil formation is a complex process that takes place over a long period of time. It involves the interaction of physical, chemical, and biological factors.

  • The nature of the parent rock
  • Climatic factors
  • Topography
  • Role of organic material
  • Time taken for the composition of soil formation

1. Parent material:

The parent material is the original rock or unconsolidated material from which the soil is formed. The type of parent material has a significant impact on the physical and chemical properties of the soil. For example, soils formed from granite tend to be sandy and acidic, while soils formed from limestone tend to be clayey and alkaline.

2. Climate:

Climate plays a crucial role in soil formation. Temperature and rainfall influence the weathering of rocks and minerals, which is the first step in soil formation. Temperature also affects the decomposition of organic matter, which contributes to the formation of humus, a key component of fertile soil.

3. Topography:

The topography, or the shape of the land, affects the movement of water and erosion. Sloping land is more susceptible to erosion than flat land, and this can lead to thinner soils. The direction of the slope can also affect soil formation, as soils on south-facing slopes tend to be warmer and drier than soils on north-facing slopes.

4. Organisms:

Organisms, both living and dead, play a vital role in soil formation. Plants, animals, and microorganisms break down rocks and minerals, creating spaces for water and air to penetrate. They also contribute to the formation of humus by decomposing organic matter.

5. Time:

Soil formation is a slow process that takes hundreds, even thousands of years. The longer the parent material is exposed to weathering and the other factors of soil formation, the deeper and more developed the soil will become.

Interdependence of Factors:

The factors of soil formation are interconnected and interdependent. Changes in one factor can affect the others. For instance, deforestation can lead to soil erosion, which can alter the soil's texture and nutrient content.

Degradation of Soil and Conservation Measures

Soil erosion and depletion are the major threats to the soil as a resource. Both human and natural factors can lead to degradation of soils. Factors which lead to soil degradation are:

  • deforestation
  • overgrazing
  • overuse of chemical fertilizers or pesticides
  • rain wash
  • landslides and floods

Meanwhile, some methods of soil conservation are given below:

Mulching: The bare ground between plants is covered with a layer of organic matter like straw, and it helps to retain soil moisture

Contour barriers: Stones, grass, and soil are used to build barriers along contours. Trenches are made in front of the barriers to collect water.

Rock dam: Rocks are piled up to slow down the flow of water and also help to prevent gullies and further soil loss

Terrace farming: Broad flat steps or terraces are made on steep slopes so that flat surfaces are available to grow crops, thus reducing surface runoff and soil erosion

Intercropping: Different crops are grown in alternate rows and are sown at different times to protect the soil from rain-wash.

Contour ploughing: Ploughing parallel to the contours of a hill slope to form a natural barrier for water to flow down the slope

Shelterbelts: In the coastal and dry regions, rows of trees are planted to check the wind movement to protect soil cover

·      Water

Three fourth of the Earth’s surface is covered with a vital renewable natural resource known as water. Oceans cover about 2/3rds of the earth’s surface and support a wide variety of plant and animal life. However, it is saline and not useful for human consumption. Freshwater accounts for only 2.7% and 70% of these occur as ice sheets and glaciers in Antarctica, Greenland and mountain regions, and they are inaccessible because of their location. Thus, only 1% of freshwater is useful for human consumption.

Water can neither be added nor subtracted from the earth, and its total volume remains constant. Its abundance seems to vary only because of the constant motion, cycling through the oceans, the air, the land and back again through the processes of evaporation, precipitation and run-off. This, as you already know, is referred to as the ‘water cycle’.

Problems of Water Availability

Most parts of the world are facing shortages in the freshwater supply. Countries located in climatic zones most susceptible to droughts face great problems of water scarcity. Thus, water shortage may be a consequence of variation in seasonal or annual precipitation or the scarcity is caused by overexploitation and contamination of water sources.

Despite its abundance, water availability is a growing concern worldwide. Several factors contribute to the scarcity and unsustainability of water resources:

1.     Increasing Population: The world's population is rapidly growing, putting increasing demands on water resources for drinking, sanitation, and agriculture.

2.     Urbanization: Urban areas are expanding rapidly, leading to increased water consumption and pollution. Cities face challenges in managing water supply and infrastructure.

3.     Unsustainable Agriculture: Conventional agricultural practices often involve excessive water usage, irrigation inefficiencies, and pollution from fertilizers and pesticides.

4.     Climate Change: Climate change is altering weather patterns, leading to droughts, floods, and changes in water distribution. These changes can disrupt water availability for various sectors.

5.     Water Pollution: Industrial, agricultural, and domestic activities release pollutants into water sources, rendering water unfit for drinking or other uses.

Conservation of Water Resources

Water is an essential resource for life on Earth, and its conservation is crucial for maintaining environmental health, human well-being, and economic prosperity. Water scarcity is a growing concern worldwide, due to increasing population, urbanization, pollution, and climate change.

Importance of Water Conservation

Conserving water is essential for several reasons:

·         Ensuring water availability for future generations: With increasing water demand, conserving water now will ensure adequate supplies for future generations.

·         Protecting ecosystems: Water is vital for maintaining healthy ecosystems, and conserving it helps preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services.

·         Promoting sustainable agriculture: Water-efficient agricultural practices are crucial for sustainable food production and reducing water stress.

·         Enhancing economic productivity: Water scarcity can hinder economic growth, while water conservation supports industrial development and economic stability.

Methods for Conserving Water

Numerous methods can be implemented to conserve water:

1.     Water-efficient appliances: Replacing old appliances with water-efficient models, such as low-flow showerheads and toilets, can significantly reduce water consumption.

2.     Leak detection and repair: Checking for and repairing leaks in faucets, pipes, and toilets can prevent substantial water loss.

3.     Water-wise gardening practices: Using drought-resistant plants, xeriscaping, and efficient irrigation methods can conserve water in gardens and landscapes.

4.     Shorten showers: Reducing shower time and using water-saving showerheads can significantly conserve water.

5.     Turn off taps when not in use: Closing taps when brushing teeth, shaving, or washing dishes can prevent unnecessary water wastage.

6.     Collect rainwater: Installing rainwater harvesting systems can collect rainwater for non-potable uses, such as watering plants or washing cars.

7.     Educate and raise awareness: Promoting water conservation practices through education and awareness campaigns can encourage behavioral changes.

NATURAL VEGETATION AND WILDLIFE

 

Natural vegetation and wildlife exist only in the narrow zone of contact between the lithosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere that we call the biosphere. In the biosphere, living beings are interrelated and interdependent on each other for survival. This life-supporting system is known as the ecosystem. Wildlife includes animals, birds, insects as well as the aquatic life forms. The birds feed on insects and act as decomposers as well. Vulture, due to its ability to feed on dead livestock, is a scavenger and is considered a vital cleanser of the environment. So, animals, big or small, all are integral to maintaining balance in the ecosystem.

NATURAL VEGETATION

Natural vegetation refers to the plant life that grows in an area without human intervention. It is a vital component of ecosystems, providing food and shelter for animals, regulating climate, protecting soil from erosion, and contributing to the aesthetic beauty of our planet. Natural vegetation is categorized into various types based on the climate, soil, and topography of a region. Some of the major types of natural vegetation include:

1.     Forests: Forests are dense stands of trees that cover about 31% of the Earth's land surface. They play a crucial role in regulating the climate, protecting biodiversity, and providing valuable resources like timber, wood products, and medicines.

2.     Grasslands: Grasslands are characterized by a dominant cover of grasses and other herbaceous plants. They support a diverse range of grazing animals and are essential for agriculture. Grasslands cover about 40% of the Earth's land surface.

3.     Deserts: Deserts are arid regions with low rainfall and extreme temperatures. They are home to specialized plants and animals that have adapted to harsh conditions. Deserts cover about 33% of the Earth's land surface.

4.     Tundra: Tundra is a treeless region characterized by cold temperatures, permafrost, and short growing seasons. It is home to mosses, lichens, and hardy plants. Tundras are found in the Arctic and high-altitude regions.

5.     Taiga: Taiga, also known as boreal forest, is the world's largest terrestrial biome. It is characterized by coniferous forests, such as pine, spruce, and fir. Taiga is found in the northern hemisphere, covering about 11% of the Earth's land surface.

6.     Mangroves: Mangroves are coastal forests found in tropical and subtropical regions. They are adapted to saline water and play a vital role in protecting coastlines from erosion, providing habitat for marine life, and filtering pollutants. Mangroves cover about 1% of the Earth's land surface.

WILDLIFE

Wildlife refers to the non-domesticated animals that live in a natural area. Wildlife plays an essential role in maintaining the balance of ecosystems. They pollinate plants, disperse seeds, recycle nutrients, and serve as prey for other animals. Wildlife contributes to the beauty of our planet and provides economic benefits through tourism and recreation.

Threats to Natural Vegetation and Wildlife

Natural vegetation and wildlife face numerous threats, including:

1.     Deforestation: Clearing forests for agriculture, logging, and urbanization is a major threat to biodiversity. Deforestation destroys habitats, disrupts ecosystems, and releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

2.     Habitat Loss: Conversion of natural habitats into agricultural land, urban areas, and infrastructure projects can lead to the loss of wildlife habitats. This loss can disrupt animal populations and threaten their survival.

3.     Pollution: Pollution from industrial waste, agricultural chemicals, and sewage can harm natural vegetation and wildlife. Water pollution can contaminate drinking water for animals and disrupt aquatic ecosystems.

4.     Overexploitation: Hunting, fishing, and wildlife trade can lead to the overexploitation of certain species, pushing them to the brink of extinction.

5.     Climate Change: Climate change is causing shifts in weather patterns, rising temperatures, and extreme events. These changes can disrupt ecosystems and threaten the survival of vulnerable species.

Conservation of Natural Vegetation and Wildlife

Changes in climate and human interference can cause the loss of natural habitats for plants and animals. Deforestation, soil erosion, construction activities, forest fires, tsunami and landslides are some of the human and natural factors that accelerate the process of extinction of these resources. One other major concern is poaching which results in a sharp decline in the number of particular species. National parks, wildlife sanctuaries, and biosphere reserves are made to protect our natural vegetation and wildlife. Conservation of creeks, lakes, and wetlands is necessary to save the precious resource from depletion.

Awareness programmes like social forestry and Vanamohatasava are also established at the regional and community level. School children are also encouraged to bird watch and visit nature camps so that they appreciate the habitat of varied species. Many countries have passed laws against the trade as well as the killing of birds and animals. In India, killing lions, tigers, deer, great Indian bustards, and peacocks is illegal. Meanwhile, an international convention CITES has been established that lists several species of animals and birds in which trade is prohibited.

Protecting natural vegetation and wildlife is crucial for maintaining biodiversity and ensuring the health of our planet. Conservation efforts include:

1.     Establishing Protected Areas: Creating national parks, sanctuaries, and wildlife reserves can provide safe havens for wildlife and protect natural habitats.

2.     Promoting Sustainable Forestry Practices: Implementing sustainable forestry practices, such as selective logging and reforestation, can help conserve forests while providing timber products.

3.     Reducing Pollution: Enacting stricter regulations and promoting cleaner technologies can reduce pollution from industries and agricultural activities.

4.     Raising Public Awareness: Educating the public about the importance of natural vegetation and wildlife can encourage support for conservation initiatives.

5.     Supporting Sustainable Agriculture: Promoting sustainable agricultural practices, such as organic farming and crop rotation, can reduce the impact of agriculture on natural ecosystems.

6.     Enacting Wildlife Protection Laws: Implementing and enforcing laws against poaching and illegal wildlife trade can protect vulnerable species.

 

Distribution of Natural Vegetation

The growth of vegetation depends primarily on temperature and moisture. The major vegetation types of the world are grouped as forests, grasslands, scrubs and tundra.

In areas of heavy rainfall- Huge trees thrive- forests are thus associated with areas having abundant water supply. As the number of moisture decreases- the size of trees and their density reduces-short stunted trees and shrubs from growing in regions of moderate rainfall. In dry areas- Thorny shrubs and scrubs grow in low rainfall areas.