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What is the problem Salinity is one of Western Austalias most critical environmental problems Western Australia has over 70 per cent of Australias reported dryland salinity see table in Dryland Salinity - An Introduction An estimated 18 million hectares of farmland are already 1996 salt-affected to some extent and this area could double in the next 15 to 25 years and then double again before reaching equilibrium Due to Western Australias landforms and climate the extent and rate of expansion of secondary salinity are particularly severe compared to other parts of Australia see Dryland Salinity - An Introduction for more information and definitions Land managers the community and government have started action to manage the problem but further decisive action is needed to halt the spread Some history Before European settlement pre 1829 salt was visible in the landscape generally in salt lakes These receive stream flow during rainfall events and filled with water which then evaporated leaving salt behind between 20 and 200 kilograms of salt per hectare per annum are dropped in rainfall over the south-west of Western Australia This is referred to as primary salinity Much of the agricultural areas in Western Australia have less than 600 mm of rainfall a year falling in winter a typical Mediterranean climate With the removal of native vegetation for agricultural development recharge to the groundwater increased leading to rising watertables This rising water dissolved salt stored in the soil and often reaches the surface as discharge This secondary salinity due to clearing is the salinity threat being dealt with in Western Australia How big is the problem Clearing in WA Of the 25 million hectares of land in south-western Australia previously covered by native perennial vegetation almost 18 million hectares have been cleared Land Use and vegetation cover in the south-west of Western Australia Beeston et al 1994 Land useAreamillions of ha of areawithin theagricultural region Agricultural region253100
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