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Use of 137Cs for Soil Erosion Assessment

image of Use of 137Cs for Soil Erosion Assessment

The 137Cs method uses traces of nuclear activity to measure soil loss, and constitutes a relatively swift and cost-effective means of collecting data on soil erosion as compared to more conventional methods. This guide covers the main principles, sampling strategy, gamma spectroscopic measurements, estimation of erosion rates with conversion models, data interpretation and validation of erosion models. The Joint FAO/IAEA Division of Nuclear Techniques in Food and Agriculture of the IAEA has been working on this method for over 20 years.

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Executive summary

Soil erosion by water, wind and tillage are among the most common and important land degradation processes, with both on-site and off-site impacts. They affect more land than all other degradation processes put together. A total of 75 billion tons of fertile soil is removed every year from global soilscape by erosion. As a result, precious soil resources, which should be preserved for next generations, are continuously reduced. Every year approximately 12 million ha of land is lost. It is therefore important that erosion research is conducted to assess the soil redistribution rates, their spatial distribution and temporal dynamics in order to counteract this process.

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