Soil degradation in Cuba (Google / Cuba Headlines)

Read at : Google Alert – desertification

http://www.cubaheadlines.com/2011/06/14/31862/cuba_valuable_natural_resource_calling_out_for_help.html

Cuba: Valuable Natural Resource Calling Out for Help

The history of degradation of the soil in many parts of the world is long and difficult. It is of significant importance in Cuba´s case because the island’s economy is eminently agricultural.

The magnitude of the problem can be seen when you learn that, of the 6.6 million hectares of the nation´s cultivable surface, approximately three quarters are affected by some kind of degradation factor.

The specialists have reiterated that the indiscriminate deforestation suffered by Cuba during the past centuries, constitutes a primary and essential cause of the Cuban soil´s weakness manifested through erosion, salinity, low natural fertility, acidity and the drainage deficiency, among others.

It has been calculated that when the Spanish came to Cuba in 1492, the island had close to 90 percent of its territory covered with forests and in 1959 the percentage had been reduced to barely 14 percent.

The deforestation meant that the archipelago lost close to 70 percent of its forests in a little over four and a half centuries.

The progressive development of the population, means of communication and other installations logically affected the rich forests in an almost totally virgin country found by the Spanish, but it is evident that this reduction was excessive.

We must add to the deforestation, the indiscriminate use of machinery, chemical fertilizers and pesticides in addition to using inappropriate cultivating techniques that eliminated the compacting process of the soils, its contamination and degradation in general by the action of man and natural factors.

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Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.

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