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Erosion is the natural process of loosening, dislodging and transporting weathered rock material with wind, water or glaciers as its carrier medium.
Erosion can leave its mark on coastal landscape features. For instance, ocean waves can wear away the top of a rock arch by means of erosion.
Water can be an indestructible force that erodes soil. Rivers carry sediment from one place to another, discoloring river beds or making the river appear brown in color. Erosion may also occur due to wind or other natural processes; however, most often caused by water.
Raindrops can cause erosion by striking rocks or soil surfaces, while flowing water can erode it away through sweeper action. This form of erosion occurs most frequently in areas with abundant rainfall or flood plains.
Human activities often accelerate erosion by altering vegetation and topography in an area. When people cut down forests or plowing up grasslands, they expose soil to rainfall and wind erosion and may hasten its rate; further aggravation may come from roads being constructed on steep hillsides; soil with more organic matter is less vulnerable because its bonds are stronger.
Wind erosion occurs when soil particles move or deposition occurs due to wind movement and deposition. While not as powerful as water erosion, wind easily picks up dry particles of sand and soil and transports them away.
Eolian erosion is a type of wind-driven erosion which can occur quickly. Erosion caused by this process may displace sand and gravel deposits to form dunes or loess deposits, furthering erosion.
Wind erosion is particularly prevalent in arid regions and areas with sparse groundcover, and human activity such as stripping the topsoil off hills and mountains, land clearing for agriculture or cutting down trees and shrubs which act as wind breaks can increase its rate.
Erosion is an ever-present reality: rocks fall from mountainsides, fields are covered with dirt and silt washed by rainwater runoff and waves batter coastal cliffs. But not all erosion is harmful: it is important to recognize when erosion is natural versus when it becomes an issue; in some instances such as when collapsed mountain sides deposit their rocks elsewhere and create new habitats for wildlife.
Soil erosion is most noticeable during short-duration and high-intensity thunderstorms when soil particles are dislodged by rainfall (raindrop splash). Sediment from erosion is carried downstream either by running water or wind currents and may clog streams, rivers or lakes.
Erosion rates depend on the conditions in a particular area; some types of soils are more vulnerable than others due to physical characteristics that influence its erodibility such as texture, structure and organic matter content.
Erosion can be caused by many human activities, including intensive agriculture, deforestation, road construction and climate change. Erosion reduces soil fertility which in turn lowers crop yields while also increasing sediment in rivers that clog aquatic life. As Franklin D. Roosevelt famously stated: a nation that destroys its own soil destroys itself – making smarter land management an international imperative. One way to mitigate erosion is planting trees to decrease dirt exposure during strong winds or rain storms or flowing waters.
Vegetation reduces erosion by blocking soil particles from being carried away by wind and water, anchoring and reinforcing soil with their roots, and providing much-needed shade to soil cells. Without vegetation present, erosion rates would likely increase significantly; without it, erosion rates are even worse.
Erosion occurs when loose soil layers on Earth’s surface are dislodged by flowing water, strong winds, glacial ice or gravity itself and washed away. This form of displacement differs from weathering, in which rock is gradually broken apart through chemical and physical processes into smaller and smaller pieces.
Human activities, including tillage, overgrazing of livestock and clearcutting can make soil vulnerable to erosion. Erosion washes away essential nutrients required for crop growth while restricting how deeply water infiltrates into the ground – leading to withering crops or restricting depth of infiltration resulting in withering crops altogether. Furthermore, erosion can speed up waterflow which scours roads or rail infrastructure and leaves unsightly gullies.