South Korean Soils and the DMZ

South Korean Soils and the DMZ

When most people go hiking they never really think of the northern part of South Korea, right next to if not on the Korean Demilitarized Zone or the DMZ, as the place to do so. But both the US Army and the Republic of Korea, ROK, Army tend to do that quite a bit. One of the main concerns faced by soldiers on the DMZ is not just the threat looming next door, in North Korea, but the soils. That’s right, the soils.

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Unfortunately, the soils around the DMZ contain far more than rock, organic matter and random debris. Sadly, the soils often harbor landmines, and other surprises left over from the Korean War. This, in combination with the type of soils found around the DMZ, known as brown earth, and the weather patterns in the Korean peninsula makes for rather dangerous conditions. The brown earth soil tends to leach clay and other minerals as well as becoming easily saturated and slippery, thus allowing for the monsoon season rains to wash out mountain sides and move debris, such as landmines, to the surface of the soil.

Several areas around the DMZ, and in it, are known to contain unexploded ordinance but every monsoon season soldiers take a chance because of the movement of the unstable soil. Landslides, washouts, and other similar events are also prevalent in the Korean mountains.

So, it’s interesting to think about just how soils influence our environment and how deadly they can be, whether that is because of human intervention or because they can cause natural disasters on their own. Respect and caution should be used when dealing with the earth.

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References and Further Reading

Soils of Korea: http://www.fao.org/fileadmin/user_upload/GSP/docs/Presentation_china_feb2012/Hong.pdf

Brown Earth in Japan: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00380768.1988.10415670

Brown Earth in Europe: https://bantrygeography.files.wordpress.com/2012/04/brown-earth-soil1.pdf

Written by Kristina B. Hartley, UIUC, SWCS Treasurer 

 

The Loss of Chernozem: Russia’s Black Soil Tragedy and the Use of Folk Knowledge in Soil Conservation

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Old Map of Russian Chernozem Prevalence

Chernozem, a fascinating soil, named for the Russian words that translate to “black earth”, is recognized as a unique soil type by the United Nations and Canadian system of soil classification; Chernozem can also be described as a Mollisol in the United States soil classification system. Chernozem soils are prized, and known, worldwide, as soils with some of the highest rates of fertility which are tied to high crop yields. Although Chernozems can be found in a few regions around the world, such as Canada, they are mostly contained within the boundaries of the Russian Federation, thus earning their name and renown.

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Untouched Chernozem Soil Horizons

Recently, I came across an article in the journal, Sustainability, which talked about the loss of Chernozems in Russia and some possible efforts at restoration through the utilization of tree windbreaks. This method is considered a traditional “Russian peasants” approach, so I found it rather fascinating that it was taken on by scientists from around the world. This subject also immediately drew me in because I am interested in both the restoration and conservation of soil, as well as the human influence on their environment, and traditional cultural approaches to conservation that can be utilized on a larger scale.

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A Group of Trees Act as a Windbreak, an Example from the US

 According to the article, and my experience, through agricultural intensification, and a substantial absence of care, degradation of chernozems has become quite the problem. To my knowledge, the ordinary people, and the government, both cultivated this invaluable soil but only small villages ever attempted at any conservation of this soil, mainly through uses of available manures, windbreaks, crop rotation and various folk approaches. Not all of the villagers efforts worked, and some may have degraded the soils further, but an attempt was still made, which, to me, demonstrates concern for the environment and thus a sense of responsibility to conserve. So, ordinary people are probably not the most at fault for the losses of Chernozem.

Regardless of that, and very, unfortunately, through a combination of the government’s intensification efforts, a lack of soil management knowledge and, a general lack or care for the understanding of soil chemistry, and later, overexploitation by private companies Chernozem losses in Russia are at an all-time high. However, there is now data to support folk knowledge that a simple thing like planting vegetation, to act as a windbreak may help preserve and save the Chernozems. Read the full article and other related materials below:

History of East European Chernozem Soil Degradation; Protection and Restoration by Tree Windbreaks in the Russian Steppe: http://www.mdpi.com/2071-1050/7/1/705/htm

Russian Soil Classification: http://eusoils.jrc.ec.europa.eu/library/Maps/Circumpolar/Download/42.pdf

Land Resource Maps, and Data, of Russia: http://nsidc.org/data/ggd601

Image Sources:

Soil Maps of the World: http://www.alfredhartemink.nl/2013%20-%20Soil%20maps%20of%20the%20world%20(Hartemink,%20Krasilnikov,%20Bockheim).pdf

Windbreaks and Crop Yield: http://blog-crop-news.extension.umn.edu/2015/04/windbreak-and-crop-yield-study.html

Written by Kristina Borisovna Hartley, UIUC SWCS Treasurer

 

Letting Soils Solve Sewer Problems

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The Soil Science Society of America recently published an interesting article outlining yet another use of soil in today’s infrastructure.

The article reports on Sally Brown, a Professor at the School of Environmental and Forest Services and the University of Washington, encouraging the use of bioretention basins as opposed to the sometimes harmful or expensive process of sewer drainage to rivers and streams.

Bioretention is defined as:  the process in which contaminants and sedimentation are removed from stormwater runoff. Stormwater is collected into the treatment area which consists of a grass buffer strip, sand bed, ponding area, organic layer or mulch layer, planting soil, and plants.

Here are some diagrams and photos of bioretention basins for visualization: VASWMBMPSpec9BIORETENTION_clip_image014.gif

source: www.vwrrc.vt.edu

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source: tourguide.cal.msu.edu

It is easy to see how soils naturally filtering ability would be useful in this situation!

Read the full article at:

https://www.soils.org/discover-soils/story/plants-soil-take-streets

 

by Sabrina Kelch – VP

Check Out Our Bulletin Board!

Hey soil lovers!

The next time you’re in Turner Hall, head up to the 5th floor and check out our new bulletin board right outside the NRES office! You can see cool pictures of past events and get an idea of the fun stuff that we do regularly in the club. You can also find our email on there, so please contact us with any questions, or if you’re interested in joining! For now, here are some pictures of us decorating the board, and the finished product. Go see for yourself!

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What Happened to the Water in Flint?

As a soil lover myself, we often find this blog highly focused on all things soils when in reality we are the soil and WATER conservation club. Well I think it is time to embrace the water side of our little organization especially because water has been such a hot topic in the news lately, particularly the news of Flint Michigan’s Water Crisis.

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The water crisis in Flint, Michigan is a disaster and means a lot for public health. So how did a city of 100,000 residents live off of lead contaminated water for over a year? And if this has been happening so long, why is this just becoming national knowledge in 2016?

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Citizens in Flint, MI showing the water that comes out of their tap

Follow the story of some of Flint’s residents to get the story below.

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/what-went-wrong-in-flint-water-crisis-michigan/

 

Wanting to read more on this disaster?

This article on restoringemporwerment.org gives a good description of exactly what went wrong through the failings of governmental organizations.

http://www.restoringempowerment.org/so-whats-the-deal-with-flint-michigan/

Want to help?

What we do know is that this is a terrible injustice that has happened to a mainly impoverished community that was denied what should be a basic right. What can you do to help? Well if you’re at the University of Illinois, the African American Culture Center is hosting a Water Drive on February 1st (Checkout the event here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1393701294270651/).

Below is also some other links you can follow and find out ways to help:

United Way of Genesee County:  Flint Water Fund

GoFundMe campaign: Flint Water Study

The Community Foundation of Greater Flint (CFGF): Flint Child Health and Development Fund