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Soil salinity 1

Soil salinity
Soil salinity is the salt content in the

Causes of soil salinity

Salt affected soils are caused by excess
accumulation of salts, typically most
pronounced at the soil surface. Salts
can be transported to the soil surface
by capillary transport from a salt laden
water table and then accumulate due to
evaporation. They can also be
concentrated in soils due to human
activity, for example the use of
Potassium as fertilizer, which is a Salt-affected soils are visible on rangeland in Colorado. Salts dissolved from the soil
accumulate at the soil surface and are deposited on the ground and at the base of the fence
naturally occurring salt. As soil salinity
increases, salt effects can result in
degradation of soils and vegetation.

Salinization is a process that results from:

• high levels of salt in the soils.
• landscape features that allow salts to become mobile. (movement of water table)
• climatic trends that favor accumulation.
• human activities such as land clearing, aquaculture activities and the salting of icy roads.[2]

Natural occurrence
Salt is a natural element of soils and water. The ions responsible for salinization are: Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+ and Cl-.
As the Na+ (sodium) predominates, soils can become sodic. Sodic soils present particular challenges because they
tend to have very poor structure which limits or prevents water infiltration and drainage.
Over eons, as soil minerals weather and release salts, these salts are flushed or leached out of the soil by drainage
water in areas with sufficient precipitation. In addition to mineral weathering, salts are also deposited via dust and
precipitation. In dry regions salts may accumulate, leading to naturally saline soils. This is the case, for example, in
large parts of Australia. Human practices can increase the salinity of soils by the addition of salts in irrigation water.
Proper irrigation management can prevent salt accumulation by providing adequate drainage water to leach added
salts from the soil. Disrupting drainage patterns that provide leaching can also result in salt accumulations. An
example of this occurred in Egypt in 1970 when the Aswan High Dam was built. The change in the level of ground
water before the construction had enabled soil erosion, which led to high concentration of salts in the water table.
After the construction, the continuous high level of the water table led to the salination of the arable land.
Soil salinity 2

Dry land salinity

Salinity in drylands can occur when the water table is between two to three metres from the surface of the soil. The
salts from the groundwater are raised by capillary action to the surface of the soil. This occurs when groundwater is
saline (which is true in many areas), and is favored by land use practices allowing more rainwater to enter the aquifer
than it could accommodate. For example, the clearing of trees for agriculture is a major reason for dryland salinity in
some areas, since deep rooting of trees has been replaced by shallow rooting of annual crops.

Salinity due to irrigation

Salinity from irrigation can occur over
time wherever irrigation occurs, since
almost all water (even natural rainfall)
contains some dissolved salts. [3] When
the plants use the water, the salts are
left behind in the soil and eventually
begin to accumulate. Since soil salinity
Rain or irrigation, in the absence of leaching, can bring salts to the surface by capillary
makes it more difficult for plants to
absorb soil moisture, these salts must
be leached out of the plant root zone
by applying additional water. This water in excess of plant needs is called the leaching fraction. Salination from
irrigation water is also greatly increased by poor drainage and use of saline water for irrigating agricultural crops.

Salinity in urban areas often results from the combination of irrigation and groundwater processes. Irrigation is also
now common in cities (gardens and recreation areas).

Consequences of salinity
The consequences of salinity are
• detrimental effects on plant growth and yield
• damage to infrastructure (roads, bricks, corrosion of pipes and cables)
• reduction of water quality for users, sedimentation problems
• soil erosion ultimately, when crops are too strongly affected by the amounts of salts.
Salinity is an important land degradation problem. Soil salinity can be reduced by leaching soluble salts out of soil
with excess irrigation water. Soil salinity control involves watertable control and flushing in combination with tile
drainage or another form of subsurface drainage.[4] [5] A comprehensive treatment of soil salinity is available from
the FAO.[6]
High levels of soil salinity can be tolerated if salt-tolerant plants are grown. Sensitive crops loose their vigor already
in slightly saline soils, most crops are negatively affected by (moderately) saline soils, and only salinity resistant
crops thrive in severely saline soils. The University of Wyoming [7] and the Government of Alberta [8] report data on
the salt tolerance of plants.
Soil salinity 3

Regions affected
From the FAO/UNESCO Soil Map of the World the following salinised areas can be derived.[9]

Renewable energy
Solar energy
Tidal power
Wave power
Wind power

Region Area (106ha)

Africa 69.5

Near and Middle East 53.1

Asia and Far East 19.5

Latin America 59.4

Australia 84.7

North America 16.0

Europe 20.7

Theoretical alternative energy source

Salination is theoretically an alternative energy source. The mixing of fresh and salty water releases energy; this
means that devices could be located at points where fresh water enters the ocean in order to harness the energy.[10]

[1] from "Soil salinity" in WaterWiki, the on-line Knowledge and Collaboration Tool of the Community of Practice (CoP) on Water- and
UNDP-related activities in Central and South-Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia. (http:/ / europeandcis. undp. org/ WaterWiki/ index.
php/ Soil_salinity)
[2] (http:/ / www. ec. gc. ca/ substances/ ese/ eng/ psap/ final/ roadsalts. cfm) "The Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999, Priority
Substances List Assessment Report, Road Salts" are environmentally toxic.
[3] ILRI (1989), Effectiveness and Social/Environmental Impacts of Irrigation Projects: a Review (http:/ / www. waterlog. info/ pdf/ irreff. pdf),
In: Annual Report 1988 of the International Institute for Land Reclamation and Improvement (ILRI), Wageningen, The Netherlands,
pp. 18–34,
[4] Drainage Manual: A Guide to Integrating Plant, Soil, and Water Relationships for Drainage of Irrigated Lands, Interior Dept., Bureau of
Reclamation, 1993, ISBN 0-16-061623-9
[5] "Free articles and software on drainage of waterlogged land and soil salinity control" (http:/ / www. waterlog. info). . Retrieved 2010-07-28.
[6] Salt-Affected Soils and their Management, FAO Soils Bulletin 39 (http:/ / www. fao. org/ docrep/ x5871e/ x5871e00. htm)
[7] Alan D. Blaylock, 1994, Soil Salinity and Salt tolerance of Horticultural and Landscape Plants. University of Wyomimg (http:/ / ces. uwyo.
edu/ pubs/ Wy988. pdf)
[8] Government of Alberta, Salt tolerance of Plants (http:/ / www1. agric. gov. ab. ca/ $department/ deptdocs. nsf/ all/ agdex3303)
[9] R.Brinkman, 1980. Saline and sodic soils. In: Land reclamation and water management, p. 62-68. International Institute for Land Reclamation
and Improvement (ILRI), Wageningen, The Netherlands.
[10] from "Electricity From Salty Water" in PhysicsCentral, the on-line news source of the American Physical Society, which represents about
45,000 physicists. (http:/ / www. physicscentral. com/ buzz/ blog/ index. cfm?postid=8192106608311312838)
Soil salinity 4

See also
• Alkali soil
• Atriplex (saltbush) (orache) (orach)
• Environmental impact of irrigation
• Saline seep
• Salinity in Australia
• Salting the earth
• Soil acidification
• Soil salinity control
• Soil salinity model
• Soil salinity and groundwater model
• Water well

External links
Article Sources and Contributors 5

Article Sources and Contributors

Soil salinity  Source:  Contributors:, Alan Liefting, Alensha, Alexius08, Andyjsmith, Anthere, ArmadilloFromHell,
CapitalR, Confuzion, Crispinstpeters, DMacks, Darrien, Eastlaw, Echuck215, Edwy, El C, Erin Moon, Fences and windows, Fifelfoo, Gene Nygaard, Geonarva, H2O, Jaganath, Janeky, Jeeves,
Katieh5584, KeepItClean, Kildwyke, KrisK, LRC1234, Lupo, Marshman, Materialscientist, Mattbr, Mcampbell422, MicroCitron, Minutiaman, MrOllie, Mtinker86, NTK, Nimbusjdf,
Niteowlneils, Nk, Paleorthid, Penpen, Ping123rox, R.J.Oosterbaan, Radagast83, Reedy, Rossj81, Saganaki-, Santryl, Sceptre, Semperf, Slakr, Staecker, Sumivec, Supersquid, Suzumebachisecret,
Sverdrup, Tanvir Ahmmed, Thumperward, Tim Starling, Tmchan888, Trev M, V.narsikar, Vegaswikian, Wapcaplet, Wavelength, Wiki alf, Wikidsoup, Zenohockey, Zondor, 111 anonymous

Image Sources, Licenses and Contributors

Image:salinity.jpg  Source:  License: Public Domain  Contributors: USDA Employee
Image:Salinity from irrigation.png  Source:  License: Public Domain  Contributors: User:Nico Düsing

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