Rapid urbanisation threatens fertile agricultural land and soil carbon in the Nile delta

Abd-Elmabod, Sameh K.; Fitch, Alice C.; Zhang, Zhenhua; Ali, Ramadan R.; Jones, Laurence. 2019 Rapid urbanisation threatens fertile agricultural land and soil carbon in the Nile delta. Journal of Environmental Management, 252, 109668. 12, pp.

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Agriculture land in Egypt represents only 3.8% of the total area. The Nile delta provides two thirds of Egypt's agriculture land, but is threatened by urban sprawl. The paper aims to quantify urban expansion over a 45 year period using 6 time points from 1972 to 2017, and its impacts on agricultural potential, soil organic carbon stocks, and implications for water use. The study used multi-temporal satellite data and remote sensing techniques (Maximum Likelihood supervised classification, and NDVI), soil sampling and analysis, data on water irrigation, and agroecological system and ecosystem services model (MicroLEIS, InVEST) to assess the effects of land use change. Urban area increased by a factor of 5, from 452 km2 in 1972 to 2644 km2 in 2017. The greatest losses occurred to the fertile Vertic Torrifluvent soils on the older delta, which lost 1734 km2. Soil organic carbon (0–75 cm depth) lost as a result of soil sealing from urbanisation rose from 25,000 to 141,000 Mg C over the 45 years. As a result of increased pressure on delta land, agriculture expanded into the higher desert areas outside the delta, on marginal land sustained by intensive fertiliser use and irrigation, which in turn puts pressure on water use. Therefore, rapid urban expansion has resulted in a loss of soil carbon and a shift in agriculture from fertile soils to marginal soils, requiring more capital inputs, which is ultimately less sustainable. Modelling suggested that soil management improvement could make better use of fertile soils within the Delta currently affected by high salinity and poor drainage. Future planning should encourage urban expansion on the less fertile soils outside of the delta, while improving suitability of existing agricultural land and minimising land degradation within the delta.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Soils and Land Use (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 0301-4797
Additional Keywords: urban sprawl, soil organic carbon, NDVI, water use, InVEST ecosystem services model
NORA Subject Terms: Ecology and Environment
Agriculture and Soil Science
Date made live: 19 Nov 2019 10:37 +0 (UTC)

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