Soil can be considered as a living thing, drawing energy for its continued existence from organic matter added by the green plants on its surface. It competes with other components of the biota for this organic matter and if deprived of a sufficient supply, it goes into decline. This decline is marked by a decrease in the population of soil micro-organisms followed by collapse of the soil components. As the system loses coherence, surface particles become liable to movement by wind or water and the soil is liable to erosion. If the soil is viewed in this way, then the problem of erosion can be approached logically by considering its anatomy, physiology and psychology. Under anatomy the physical features of the Earth's landmass are reviewed, together with the air mass that envelopes it and their relationship to particle transport. Physiology covers the processes that develop soil erosion is considered from the viewpoint that continuous ground cover by green plants would prevent erosion. This view is modified to accept that where the cover is altered or destroyed by other species, then erosion may take place. Psychology attempts to understand why the species most capable of rapid and total removal of vegetative cover, man, does so either collectively or singly around the world. The findings of this last section are based on the work of an IFAS study which questioned farmers on over 10,000 small farms in the tropics and sub-tropics from the Philippines to Peru.
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