Assessment of soil erosion vulnerability in the heavily populated and ecologically fragile communities in Motozintla de Mendoza, Chiapas, Mexico
Variability in physical rates and local knowledge of soil erosion was assessed across six rural communities in the Sierra Madre del Sur, Chiapas, Mexico. The average erosion rate estimated using the RUSLE model is 274 t ha −1 yr −1, with the estimated erosion rates ranging from 28 to 717 t ha −1 yr −1. These very high erosion rates are associated with high rainfall erosivity (17 000 MJ mm ha −1 h −1 yr −1) and steep slopes (mean slope = 67 %). Many of the highest soil erosion rates are found in communities that are dominated by forestland, but where most of the tree cover has been removed. Conversely, lower erosion rates are often found where corn is cultivated for most of the year. According to the results of the soil erosion KAP (knowledge, attitude and practices) survey, awareness of the concept of soil erosion was reasonably high in all of the communities, but awareness of the causes of erosion was considerably lower. More than half of respondents believed that reforestation is a viable option for reducing soil erosion, but only a third of respondents were currently implementing reforestation practices. Another third of the respondents indicated that they were not following any soil conservation practices. Respondents indicated that adoption of government reforestation efforts have been hindered by the need to clear their land to sell forest products or cultivate corn. Respondents also mentioned the difficulties involved with obtaining favorable tree stocks for reforestation. The KAP results were used to assess the overall level of motivation to solve soil erosion problems by compiling negative responses. The relationship between the magnitude of the soil erosion problem and the capacity to reduce soil erosion is inconsistent across the communities. One community, Barrio Vicente Guerrero, had the highest average negative response rate and the second highest soil erosion rate, indicating that this community is particularly vulnerable.