Wind caused erosion prevention

Common tropical seashore tree (Casuarina equisetifolia) known as Common Ironwood, Beefwood, Bull-oak, or Whistling-pine and is often planted as a windbreak. CC BY-SA 2.0 photo by Dinesh Valke via Wikimedia Commons

Wind caused erosion is a significant and growing issue in Te Moananui Oceania, as populations grow, urban areas intensify in parallel with the need for food security (James, 2021). The effects of climate change are to intensify weather patterns, meaning significant wind events are more severe and more frequent (Blackham et al., 2015; Lefale, 2010). Wind erosion usually occurs by the action of wind on the soil through a number of processes. The three main ways soil particles more are through suspension, where small particles are picked up by winds and carried in visible dust clouds, often including valuable fertile components of soil; creep in which larger, heavier particles move short distances along the soil surface; and saltation where medium sized particles account for the majority of soil movement bounce along the soil surface, in the process dislodging additional particles creating thick, moving dust clouds just above the ground surface (Basher, 2013; Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.).

The most significant cause of wind erosion is the cultivation of soil in agricultural systems, which disturbs the soil structure and promotes the movement of soil through erosion processes, by both water and wind. Wind caused erosion and it’s impacts can also occur in coastal areas and urban contexts (Monnereau & Abraham, n.d.; Nand et al., 2023; Restoring Windblown Dunes Using Native Plants, n.d.; Rezaei et al., 2019; Tian et al., 2021).

There are a number of strategies to prevent wind caused erosion:

Windbreaks:

Shelter is a highly effective tool for reducing wind speeds, and therefore likelihood of wind caused erosion (Dalla Rosa, 1993; Drew et al., 2002). Planted wind breaks can use a variety of tree species throughout Te Moananui Oceania, but preferably using a fast growing, useful or native species that provide additional ecosystem and cultural services, as well as wind protection. Windbreaks generally protect a distance about ten times their height (eg. 9m tall windbreak protects 90m of land). Windbreaks should be continuous and not too dense, as impermeable barriers can adversely increase wind speeds, and therefore produce more damaging effects (Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.).

Mulching is the practice of leaving debris on the soil, either from a previous crop, or produced from local waste materials like green waste or hay (Bogunović & Filipović, 2023). A minimum of 20% soil cover is suggested for any effect (Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.). However, vegetative mulch can promote other issues in agricultural systems, such as increased slug and snail pests. Other types of mulch include applications of compost or manure, which also improve soil quality and structure (Link to relevant nbs’s), further providing wind-erosion resistance.

Trap strips:

Are strips of vegetation left in a cultivated area the catch sediment and interrupt the process of saltation as it exponentially increases across distance (Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.).

No-till agriculture:

Maintaining a non-till system means that soil structure is preserved and the soil surface is rarely exposed as erodible small particles (Seitz et al., 2020). No till systems usually rely on alternative methods of increasing soil quality and productivity, such as applications of compost and cover crops which introduce fertility. Maintaining vegetation cover on soils means soils are less likely to dry out to a level that allows wind erosion processes to occur.

Soil surface roughness:

Increasing soil surface roughness, especially by cultivating in a way that produces ridges at right angles to the wind, can reduce the effect of wind erosion processes and trap smaller particles as they move (Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.).

Revegetation and coastal planting:

Planting native and wind tolerant vegetation, especially grasses which grow quickly and provide soil stabilising root systems, can prevent wind erosion and slow and catch soil or sand particles as they move through wind-erosion processes (Baldos et al., 2017; Lee et al., 2022; Restoring Windblown Dunes Using Native Plants, n.d.). Over time, revegetation projects can even begin to reverse the effects of erosion through the aggregation of moving soil sediment.

Hydromulching/hydroseeding:

Is a process in which a slurry material made of biodegradable material such as paper, sometimes containing seeds is sprayed across an eroding area, to stabilise the surface and introduce vegetation (Baldos et al., 2017). Some hydro mulches contain chemicals including herbicides, fertilisers or glues that may be damaging to ecosystems or cause ongoing issues if affected themselves by wind or water erosion.

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Name of NbS

Wind caused erosion prevention

Type of NbS

Hybrid living / engineered interventions

Location

  • Urban
  • Peri-urban
  • Rural
Hua orchards showing strip-tilled, irrigated treelines, with Tithonia diversifolia (yellow flowers) inter-planted. Photo from windbreaks-strip-tilling-and-more

Relationship to Indigenous knowledge

Indigenous knowledge based agriculture systems are commonly small-scale, diverse systems that mimic natural ecosystems (Drew et al., 2002; McCoy & Hartshorn, 2007). In Te Moananui Oceania a widespread strategy of multi-layered diverse planting is often referred to as agroforestry (Clarke et al., 1993), and incorporates diverse plantings which include trees and shrubs could mitigate or prevent wind caused soil erosion, especially when compared to conventional orchards or cultivated agriculture. Indigenous intergenerational knowledge serve as important reserves of information regarding change to landscapes over time. Additionally Indigenous groups hold environmental specific knowledge and should be engaged in projects to restore or protect ecosystems, such as revegetation plantings. Windbreak plantings can include useful tree species that provide fibre, fuel or medicinal resources valuable in Indigenous practices throughout Te Moananui Oceania (Dalla Rosa, 1993).

Climate change benefits
  • Loss of food production
  • Reduced air quality
  • Soil erosion
  • Wind damage

As climate change progresses, the severity and impacts caused by storms increase. Deforestation for agriculture and urban development diminishes natural vegetation cover that creates protection from the effects of weather. The result of these factors on wind is that increased wind speeds can erode exposed soils, affect crops, and damage buildings and infrastructure. Wind caused erosion prevention techniques focus on increasing the natural stability of soils or reintroduce vegetation that stabilise soil with their roots while also creating protection from winds through their foliage. Techniques that slow wind speeds and catch particulates carried in wind can also reduce wind-borne particulate pollution, and the movement of contaminants from one place to another.

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Societal / socio-cultural benefits
  • Climate change adaptation

Introducing wind erosion prevention techniques in the landscape increases the natural resilience of the environment and can even enable the processes of erosion that are exacerbated by climate change related weather events to be reversed. Intentional incorporation of techniques like wind breaks in the design of agriculture systems or urban settings can make environments more conducive to growing food or other crops, and to inhabitation.

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Ecological and biodiversity benefits
  • Disturbance prevention (erosion, storm damage, flooding etc.)
  • Provision of raw materials
  • Species maintenance

Wind caused erosion prevention techniques such as revegetation can prevent disturbance of soils or sediments from wind caused erosion, storm damage in coastal areas or by landslide, and reduce the impact of flooding. Other techniques can also provide other ecological and biodiversity benefits, for example native species can be used in windbreak plantings to provide protection while also provisioning useful materials like fodder for animals, fibre, fuel, timber, and medicine. Selection of locally appropriate native species can also enhance the maintenance of naturally occurring plants and the animal species which rely on them.

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Technical requirements

There are various strategies that can be used for wind caused erosion prevention, and selection of the appropriate one for the context can enhance wind erosion prevention outcomes as well as provide secondary benefits. Understanding weather patterns, referring to Indigenous knowledge, meteorological sources, geological and soil date and other sources like GIS spatial mapping can improve understandings of site conditions where wind caused erosion prevention measures are implemented. Equally knowledge of locally relevant plant species is important when selecting species for strategies which employ vegetation.

Issues and Barriers

Increased El Nino events in Te Moanannui Oceania in recent history have been blamed for more severe droughts (Kelman, 2022), and lower soil moisture levels that increase the need for wind caused erosion prevention measures but also make some strategies (like those that employ vegetation) more difficult to establish (Dalla Rosa, 1993). There is a need for continuing productivity of agricultural systems to meet the needs of urbanising populations globally, however it is increasingly understood that many ‘conventional’ agriculture practices cause depletion of soils, and that excessive cultivation of soils can make wind caused erosion more likely, depending on soil conditions (Cárceles Rodríguez et al., 2022; Montgomery & Biklé, 2021).

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New crops being introduced to Te Moananui Oceania and the new ways for growing being introduced alongside them, especially intensive agriculture are a developing issue, where traditional, diverse agriculture systems like agroforestry are naturally resilient to and actively prevent wind caused erosion (Barbour & Terry, 1998; Nand et al., 2023).

Opportunities

There are opportunities for wind caused erosion prevention measures to provide other services, like fuel, fibre, habitat, firebreaks, support species, other food or medicine. Education and implementation efforts of wind caused erosion prevention can involve communities in disaster reduction and prevention in ways which also have biodiversity and ecosystem protection outcomes. Additionally understanding and promoting Indigenous techniques for wind caused erosion prevention can maintain and uplift these knowledge bases and provide local cultural and ecologically relevant methods. Moving to no-till agriculture as a wind caused erosion prevention strategy has myriad other benefits including conserving soil structure, improved soil life, lowered water needs, lowered needs for inputs like fertilisers (Seitz et al., 2020).

Financial case

As with many climate change related challenges, the economic effects of wind caused erosion are complex and dependent on context. In (Sustainable Land Management: Wind Erosion and Control, n.d.) it is stated that if 1cm of top soil is removed, the fertiliser needed to replace lost nutrients can cost from $300 to $1,000 per hectare. Also in Aotearoa New Zealand, (Krausse et al., 2001) estimate that the annual cost of preventing erosion was approximately $24 million and that that the damage caused by erosion cost $103 million including all types of erosion in the country. Today these figures are likely greater. Employing wind caused erosion prevention measures can reduce the impact of wind on agriculture, structures including housing, infrastructure, and the landscape, therefore reducing costs associated with repairing damage.

Windbreak scheme showing effects of windbreak on cropland, CC BY-SA 3.0 by Gmihail via Wikimedia commons.
Intercropping of Napier grass in coconut-based agroforestry system in Tumkur, Karnataka. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 Photo by World Agroforestry Centre/S.K. Dalal via Flickr
References
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