Wind erosion is a common process in soils under arid and semi-arid climates, and is often considered a major source of land degradation. Soil degradation by wind also causes other effects, as loss of moisture content and decreased aggregation. Wind erosion is particularly serious in the case of soils with low plant cover throughout the year or part of it, as in agricultural soils.
Wind simulators are used to study and quantify wind-induced soil erosion. One of the first devices to quantify wind erosion was a wind simulator that used a fan acting directly on the soil surface. Quirantes (1989) proposed a model in which the fan was connected to a semi-rigid fabric. A simulator by Fister and Ries (2009) was used to study wind erosion in the Ebro basin (Spain).
A group of researchers (Carlos M, Asensio, Francisco J. Lozano, Antonio Giménez and Juan C. Pérez) from the University of Almería (Spain) has designed a wind tunnel for the study of wind erosion under controlled conditions, which allows the analysis in situ of wind erosion and desertification processes.
The wind tunnel is equipped with a fan that generates a strong air flow through a drop-down tubular system and a laser-scan, which allows the generation of 3D maps of the soil surface before and after being eroded by wind simulation. A system for sample collection allows quantitative analysis of soil erosion during the experiments. Images of detached soil particles fixed in adherent plates are recorded by a camera. The equipment is light and completely foldable, which facilitates transportation.
The wind tunnel has been registered as a patent by the University of Almeria. It is expected that this device will help to improve soil quality and fertility in vulnerable agricultural areas.