Soil Erosion, Desertification and Dust Storms


Disappearance of topsoil causes desert expansion and crop reduction in regions across the world. –

How Soil Erosion Contributes to Desertification and Dust Storms


Invasive sedge protects dunes better than native grass


Photo credit: Science Daily

The Superstorm Sandy storm surge breached the dune line and created a channel that is stabilized by American beachgrass (Ammophila breviligulata) on the left and Asiatic sand sedge (Carex kobomugi) on the right.
Credit: Bianca Charbonneau

Invasive sedge protects dunes better than native grass, study finds

January 25, 2017
University of Pennsylvania
An invasive dune plant has an advantage over its native counterpart: the invasive is better at preventing erosion of dunes during big storms, report investigators.

The invasive species Carex kobomugi, or Asiatic sand sedge, was first found along the East Coast of the United States at New Jersey’s Island Beach State Park in 1929. The species is aggressive, outcompeting native vegetation and reducing local biodiversity. In many places, land managers have made great efforts to remove it.

But a new study published in the Journal of Applied Ecology and led by University of Pennsylvania doctoral candidate Bianca Charbonneau finds that the invasive plant does have one advantage over its native counterpart, Ammophila breviligulata, or American beach grass: the invasive is better at preventing erosion of dunes during big storms.

With a warming climate battering the coast with more severe storms, the research suggests that, to protect coastal communities, managers may want to give weight to the virtues of the non-native species.

“In order to make an informed management decision, you really need to know all the cards at play and this is an important one,” said Charbonneau, a student in the School of Arts & Sciences’ Biology Department. “If you value the natural composition and habitats afforded by native plant diversity, you should be trying to control this invasive. If your priority is protecting houses on the coast, you might consider letting it lie, or at least letting it lie until there is a plan to replace it so you do not leave a vulnerable unvegetated area in a dune. However, there is a caveat in that we do not know how dunes develop with one species versus another in terms of growth rate and shape.”

Read the full story: Science Daily

Protecting the environment, empowering people(IFAD)

The Drylands Advantage

Protecting the environment, empowering people 

“Recognition of the true value of ecosystem services, and of the opportunities they offer, will enable better planning and realization of the full economic potential of dryland ecosystems, rebutting the common perception that drylands are ‘economic wastelands’” (IUCN, 2009).

Table of Contents

Acronyms 4

Introduction 5

China: Boosting biodiversity for benefits to people and the environment 9

Jordan: Sustainable land management 15

Nicaragua: Nutrition security in the Dry Corridor in the face of El Niño 21

Senegal: What a little freshwater can do 27

Swaziland: Grass-roots governance beats overgrazing and gully erosion 32

Conclusions and next steps 37

References and resources consulted 39

How to prevent desertification in NW China


Photo credit: Xinhua

Ecological barrier under construction to prevent desertification in NW China

Farmers build barriers with hay to create grid patterns that stabilize sand dunes in Minqin County, Wuwei, northwest China’s Gansu Province, Nov. 19, 2016. Local government planned to spend six years from 2015 to build an ecological barrier to stabilize sand and prevent desertification, which is 500km long and 1000 meters wide. (Photo/Xinhua)
Read the full story: People’s Daily

Willows and cottonwoods can be grown from cuttings into full, healthy plants to stabilize the soil.


Volunteers stabilize stream bank

The weather might have been cool and wet this fall, but that didn’t stop the Elk River Alliance and their amazing volunteers from joining forces to work on a couple of stream bank restoration projects.  Thanks to the world of ecological restoration, it is possible to stabilize and rehabilitate an eroded bank by using plants instead of conventional methods, such as riprap. A major benefit of using plants as opposed to conventional bank stabilization methods is that they add to the longterm health of the aquatic ecosystem by providing shelter, habitat and adding nutrients to the stream.

Stream banks can be bioengineered by placing live plant material in the side of the bank and allowing the material to grow. Many plant species, such as willows and cottonwoods, can be grown from cuttings into full, healthy plants.

This means that shoots can be harvested and planted in the fall while they are dormant and then in the spring, when it warms up and the snow melts, they will start to bud and grow roots and shoots. These roots will continue to grow into the eroded soil over the next several years and will stabilize the ground.

This is exactly what volunteers did to help a stream bank on Lizard Creek! The site had failed in 2013 and the ERA had previously banded together with concerned citizens and park users to restore the site. The slope was well on its way to becoming stabilized, but to reduce the erosion that was still occurring they came around for a second pass. More cottonwood and willow cuttings were harvested and planted into the bank between the existing rows. By this time next year, these new cuttings will already be stabilizing the soil.

Another way that stream banks can be stabilized is by planting young plants that will continue to grow in them. This technique is more costly, but can be equally effective if care is taken to give the plants their best shot with lots of water and soil amendments.

Read the full article: The Free Press


TerraCottem for erosion control of sandy soils all over the world


Photo credit: WVC

Erosion control of sandy soil by appying TerraCottem soil conditioner in the Antwerp harbour area

by Prof. Dr. Willem Van Cotthem (Ghent University, Belgium)


With the purpose of creating a new dock in the vicinity of Antwerp (Belgium), a large area was covered with sandy bottom sediments of the river Schelde, excavated by dredging. As these newly formed sandy soils are mostly nutrient deficient, it is extremely difficult to cover them with a vegetation layer to control wind erosion.  Their fertility and water retention capacity is generally too low, so that seeding with traditional grass species is mostly inefficient.  Even if these grasses germinate after some good rains, the young plants perish because the sand is unable to retain sufficient moisture and nutrients.

As a result of this drought and nutrient poverty, the young grasses will soon dry, which automatically leads to erosion, particularly in between the seeding lines of the grasses (see picture above).

In order to sustain an efficient vegetation layer on newly formed sandy soils, one has to condition those soils to improve their water retention capacity and fertility.  Thats’s where the soil conditioning technology TerraCottem ( plays an important role.

The TerraCottem soil conditioners are a proprietary mixture of more than twenty components each from different groups all assisting in the plant growth processes in a synergetic way (see:

  • The growth precursors play a very important role in the initial growth phase of the plant. They activate root cell elongation and differentiation, and promote leaf development and biomass production.  In addition, roots are encouraged to grow more rapidly to depths where more water is present.
  • The cross-linked hydroabsorbent polymers absorb and store water that is normally lost to evaporation and leaching, reducing the volume and frequency of necessary irrigation by up to 50%.  This water is then kept at the disposal of the plant that accesses the stored water on demand through its root hairs, keeping the water in the root zone for a longer period of time.
  • The specially selected fertilizers provide balanced nutrition to the plants based upon macro and microelements.
  • TerraCottem’s carrier materials are selected for their chemo-physical properties (CEC, WRC, etc.) and their characteristics which allow homogeneous distribution of all components.

In view of an optimal development of a grass layer (turf), TerraCottem Turf has been developed. “Based on the TerraCottem principle, it contains zeolite, a 100 percent natural volcanic mineral that helps increase soil fertility and water retention.  The product’s benefits are further boosted by the inclusion of turf specific fertilizers and humic acids which have a positive effect on water retention capacity, soil structure and microbiological activity.   All this, to get quicker grass establishment, enhanced root and plant growth and improve the quality of turf, seeded grass and sprigs.”

At the start of our experiment in the Antwerp harbour area, the yellow sandy surface was completely barren and wind erosion was dramatic.  The experimental perimeter was divided into two parts:

(1) Left side of the photo above: The untreated part where a mixture of traditional grasses was directly sown in the sandy soil.

(2) Right on the photo: The TerraCottem-treated part (100 g per square meter, to a depth of 30 cm).

Thanks to some good rains, the grasses of the untreated part germinated and developed into a vegetation layer in which the seeding lines remained visible weeks after the start of the experiment.  During windy periods, sand grains were blown out from these uncovered parts between the grass lines.  Wind erosion and drought effect continued and finally the grasses died (see brown grasses in the picture).

Due to the improved water retention capacity and the higher fertility at the TerraCottem-treated part, the grasses developed soon into a closed turf layer, where wind erosion was totally reduced (see green “pasture” at the right hand side of the picture).

This experiment showed clearly that the soil conditioner TerraCottem is an excellent tool in the combat of erosion.  It deserves to be applied at the largest scale in the combat of desertification and all the applications to mitigate drought.




Cooperation of all countries is an absolute must if the problem of desertification is to be addressed.


Photo credit: The Media Express

Wind Erosion Control

Sand dunes fixation: Stabilizing a dune to control the sand movement can be accomplished chemically, mechanically or biologically. Stabilization control measures could be temporary or permanent. A temporary sand control system is used as an initial stage during the application of a permanent one. A temporary system may include shielding the ground with stable material or erection of fences or other methods. Shielding the ground can be accomplished by stone mulching, wetting, chemical stabilizers, biological crusting or covering the ground by any other material such as tree branches, sheets, nets, geo-textiles, or similar materials. The erection of fences can also temporarily control sand hazard. –