Erosion is a natural process which gradually wears away soil by wear-and-tear or flows such as gravity or fluid media such as water, wind or even glaciers. Erosion causes soil loss.
Water erosion is perhaps the best-known form of soil degradation, caused by heavy rains and flooding events that erode land that slopes downward.
Water is one of the primary agents responsible for erosion. From mountain streams to waves, water wears away landforms over time – slowly but steadily wearing away at soil. While large volumes of water might be required to completely dissolve sand and rock deposits, even regular streams or drips of rainwater can eventually wear down soil over time.
Physical erosion refers to changes to rocks without altering their chemical makeup, such as paint peeling and rust on metal objects. Plants can also contribute to physical erosion through bioerosion – breaking up earthen materials as they grow.
Human activities can exacerbate erosion. Plowing grasses and forests for agriculture exposes soil to strong winds and rainstorms that carry particles away. Erosion decreases crop production while simultaneously contributing to pollution, sedimentation, flooding, rising water levels and flooding, increased pollution in rivers and lakes as well as an increased risk of mudslides.
Wind erosion occurs when air currents pick up small particles of soil, sand or dust and carry them away with the wind currents. It can do serious damage by eroding highways, covering crops and blowing into homes and other buildings as well as dehydrating and decreasing nutrients in soil.
Size can have a dramatic impact on erosion; large particles like clay and silt may travel a great distance while fine sand will only move a short distance. Furthermore, surface conditions also play a large role in how much erosion takes place.
Soil that is loose is more susceptible to erosion, and activities that expose its surface such as land clearing or overgrazing by animals increase this risk. Hedgerows or wind breakers planted to reduce wind erosion can help protect it; keeping vegetation cover over your soil also serves to decrease erosion rates.
Soil erosion is typically the result of gravity and various forms of movement, including water, wind or glaciers. We witness its destructive power every time it rains or floods occur – an example being when rivers flood their banks.
Wind erosion is a leading contributor to soil loss as it moves soil particles around. Uncontrolled wind erosion leads to loss of topsoil that contains vital nutrients that support crop production, potentially diminishing crop output and leading to desertification.
Climate is also a major contributor to soil erosion, with changes in precipitation patterns and temperature extremes driving the process faster than ever before, often up to 100 times faster. Unchecked climate change may hasten this process even further and cause erosion to take place 100 times faster than it’s formed – leading to decreased crop yields, reduced land values and pollution from pesticides, fertilizers and other chemicals entering water bodies and polluting bodies like rivers lakes estuaries causing their ecosystems to be polluted as sediments move further downstream – this phenomenon known as “eutrophication”.
Erosion is a natural process, but human activity has the power to speed it up 10-15 times more quickly according to Syracuse University geologist Bruce Wilkinson. This increased erosion can reshape landscapes much quicker than through natural processes alone.
Erosion of soil can be caused by various forces, including wind, water and glaciers; however, many other factors also contribute to its destruction; among them are weathering (breaking down and shifting earth particles), mass wasting (such as land slides and landslides), as well as control measures provided through vegetation.
Forests and plants help prevent soil erosion by stabilizing it with roots, while humans can increase rates by clearing forests and altering the vegetation of an area. Digging, plowing and burrowing activities all increase erosion rates by loosening dirt that becomes more susceptible to being carried off by water or wind currents.