A soil that was once biologically productive and has suffered to such an extent from human activities that it is less capable or incapable of beneficial uses (even for leisure or recreation) is described as "derelict." Attempts at renewal of the degraded resource are sometimes given different names such as redemption, rehabilitation, and restoration.
Reclamation often is used as a blanket term to describe all of the activities that seek to upgrade damaged soil and to bring it back into beneficial use.
Soils may be degraded in a variety of ways and to very different degrees. Productive areas have been spoiled by acid precipitation, or have been covered by mining loads, smelter slags, or by the waste of chemical and manufacturing industries.
When a human activity adversely affects the land, it is generally the biologically active surface layer—soil—that is most easily destroyed or degraded. In addition to the impairment of biological activity, the handling and tipping of loads often can lead to compaction and degradation of soil structure, rendering the environment inhospitable for plant growth.
These problems must be overcome if a derelict soil is to be upgraded so as to appropriately support plant and animal communities. When this process begins, some of the features of a fertile soil will reappear in deeper layers. Plant growth will improve steadily and, in turn, will introduce residues that will improve the physical and chemical characteristics of the soil. The initiation of degraded resource renovation is the broad aim of derelict soil reclamation.
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