The loose topsoil is then transported by wind to nearby streams and waterways and become sediment or runoff, lowering the overall quality of the water. Soil erosion is a major driver of desertification. Erosion by Water Water is the main cause of erosion on Earth. Causes of Soil Erosion Various agents, like wind, water, deforestation, overgrazing by cattle, etc., cause soil erosion. This means most of the environmental problems the world face today arises from soil erosion. As a result, the lack of land cover causes increased rates of soil erosion. While there are many different factors that can cause soil erosion, most can be broken down into two main categories: Runoff washes away the soil particles from sloping and bare lands while wind blows … The consequences of soil erosion are primarily centered on reduced agricultural productivity as well as soil quality. (And Which Foods Do They Actually Like), How Do Birds Mate? Soil erosion decreases soil fertility, which can negatively affect crop yields. Even deforestation or reduced vegetation caused by things like forest fires are sometimes unavoidable. Soil erosion is a gradual process of movement and transport of the upper layer of soil (topsoil) by different agents – particularly water, wind, and mass movement – causing its deterioration in the long term. Her passion for science education drove her to start EarthEclipse with the sole objective of finding and sharing fun and interesting science facts. This reduces soil quality and agricultural productivity. Deforestationis a major cause of soil erosion, perhaps the main cause. While the slash and burn technique of deforestation introduces significant volumes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere it has become popular due to its speed and cost-effectiveness at clearing an area. In the absence of trees, it can lead to heavy erosion of topsoil. (b) Hiking trails may become eroded. This form of erosion is a major delivery mechanism for water erosion. The causes of soil erosion are directly related to improper landuse, and are, therefore, entirely man-made. Some soil erosion causes are mentioned below. It is likely that most of the cultivated areas around the globe are vulnerable to soil erosion. Completed construction can also contribute to erosion (Figure 6). The flow of rivers and streams causes valley erosion. Farming activities such as tillage also significantly contribute to soil erosion. In some arid and semiarid areas, wind can be the cause of soil erosion too. High winds can contribute to soil erosion, particularly in dry weather periods or in the arid and semi-arid (ASAL) regions. Farmers remove native vegetation and then plow the land to plant new seeds. Overstocking and overgrazing has led to reduced ground cover and break down of the soil particles, giving room for erosion and accelerating the erosive effects by wind and rain. Figure 1. Leaf litter plays an important role in protecting forest soils from erosion (Figure 3). (a) Disturbed land at a coal mine pit in Germany. Soil erosion is a natural process which has increasingly been exacerbated by human activities such as agriculture and deforestation. Some Other Causes of Soil Erosion: 1. It is severe during the times of drought in the ASAL regions. Activities that remove vegetation, disturb the ground, or allow the ground to dry are activities that increase erosion. Soil erosion is incredibly problematic, but it is also preventable and reducible when you take the right steps. Some of the exposed ground is being reclaimed by planting trees. 2. Soils eroded from agricultural lands carry pesticides, heavy metals, and fertilizers which are washed into streams and major water ways. What causes erosion? What is Soil Conservation and What are Various Ways To Conserve Soil? Slope. Thus, soil erosion is a continuous process and may occur either at a relatively unnoticed rate or an alarming rate contributing to copious loss of the topsoil. Soil erosion is … Soil erosion is the geological process wherein soil particles are detached and transported by various agents of erosion, namely water, wind, glaciers, and gravity. Erosion definition. Grazing animals (Figure 2) wander over large areas of pasture or natural grasslands eating grasses and shrubs. Why Do White Rabbits Have Red Eyes? Soil erosion is, thus, more common in desert or Barren land. When forests are wiped out, the land becomes exposed, leaving it vulnerable to being washed or blown away by elements. It results in a continuous loss of topsoil, ecological degradation, soil collapse, etc. The water quality of various streams, rivers, and coastal areas has also been deteriorated as a result of soil erosion, eventually affecting the health of the local communities. Some of the principal causes of soil erosion include: 1. Causes of Soil Erosion: Various agents, like wind, water, deforestation, overgrazing by cattle, and etc., cause soil erosion. Dust plumes from the deserts or dry areas can cause large and widespread air pollution as the winds move. (And Process of Formation), Causes and Effects of Marine Habitat Loss, 35+ Outstanding Facts About the Planet Earth, Advantages and Importance of Reforestation, Five Different Atmospheric Layers of the Earth, Causes and Effects of Ozone Layer Depletion, Extraordinary Ways to Protect Coral Reefs, Causes and Effects to Environmental Pollution, Causes and Effects of Ocean Acidification. The process is triggered by various phenomena taking place on the planet, ranging from slow-moving ice bodies in the glacial mountains, to landslides caused by earthquakes. Soil erosion is a gradual process that occurs when the impact of water or wind detaches and removes soil particles, causing the soil to deteriorate. But, before we go into how to prevent soil erosion, you first need to understand what causes it. It also sends soil-laden water downstream, which can create heavy layers of sediment that prevent streams and … Soil erosion can affect infrastructural projects such as dams, drainages, and embankments. … Earth Eclipse. Also, the silt up can support plant life that can, in turn, cause cracks and weaken the structures. This technique in parti… Logging results in the loss of leaf litter, or dead leaves, bark, and branches on the forest floor. The removal of topsoil by wind and water is called soil erosion. These occur more often when the land is not covered with grass or plants. When vegetation is planted in the ground, the topsoil is shifted, which causes erosion. Did you have an idea for improving this content? Here are few of the major causes of soil erosion. Trees and vegetation cover help to hold the soil particles together thereby reduces the erosive effects of erosion caused by rainfall and flooding. What are Natural Resources, Types and Threats to Natural Resources. Soil erosion is a continuous process that occurs either slowly or at an alarming rate. (And Can They Choke on Raisins), Can Squirrels Eat Popcorn? (Albinism), Can Squirrels Eat Almonds? For instance, clay soils tend to be more resistant to soil erosion compared to sandy or loose silt soils. Distribution of rainfall and landscape: If the ground surface is such that rainfall distributes evenly, … Water ways may also be blocked, and it may affect water quality. Common Causes of Soil Erosion #1. Bank erosion happens when bodies of water sap away the topsoil near its shores. When the rivers and streams are full of soil deposits due to sedimentation and the valley levels up with the surface, the water ways begin to wash away the soils at the banks. What causes soil erosion? These types of erosions are caused by the impacts of raindrops on the soil surface that break down and disperse the soil particles, which are then washed away by the stormwater runoff. As mentioned, the predominant causes of soil erosion are either related to naturally-occurring events or influenced by the presence of human activity. The accumulation of soil and crop debris at the. If soils get saturated with water after prolonged periods of intensive rain, their capacity to absorb water decreases. The accumulation of soil sediments in dams/drainages and along embankments can reduce their operational lifetime and efficiency. (b) This coal mine in West Virginia covers more than 10,000 acres (15.6 square miles). What are some human activities that increase the likelihood that soil will be eroded? Erosion, physical process in which soil, rock, and other surface material are removed from one location and transported to another. It results in the progressive down-slope movement of soil, causing severe soil loss on upper-slope positions and accumulation in lower-slope positions. Apart from polluting the water systems, high soil sedimentation can be catastrophic to the survival of aquatic life forms. Recreational activities may accelerate soil erosion. Greater duration and intensity of rainstorm means greater potential for soil erosion. In the absence of plants, Soil can be carried away easily by a strong wind and water. Constructing buildings and roads churns up the ground and exposes soil to erosion. Figure 4. Water is the most common cause of soil erosion. Let us have a detailed look at the causes, effects and prevention of soil erosion. Also, exposed subsoil is highly erodible to the forces of water and wind. Up and down field tillage practices as well create pathways for surface water runoff and can speed up the soil erosion process. Soil erosion from surface water runoff often causes serious damage to roads and tracks, especially if stabilizing techniques are not used. Surface mining disturbs the land (Figure 5) and leaves the soil vulnerable to erosion. 3. Put simply, the causes of soil erosion are somewhat inevitable. Agricultural practices such as burning and clearing of vegetation also reduce the overall vegetation cover. They also churn up the ground with their hooves. Soil erosion refers to the process whereby the top layer of soil is removed. In some locations soil erosion may occur about 10 times faster than its natural rate. Soil deterioration and low water quality due to erosion and surface runoff have become severe problems worldwide. This leads to water pollution and damage to marine and freshwater habitats. Wind causes erosion of rock particles driven by soil and sand particles that are not tightly glued together and not insulated by vegetation. Sheet erosion affects a whole area, when water or the wind act like a broom to clear out the topsoil. Soil erosion is more likely where the ground has been disturbed by agriculture, grazing animals, logging, mining, construction, and recreational activities. The three main forces that cause erosion are water, wind, and ice. Agriculture is the main way humans cause soil erosion. Soil erosion is more likely where the ground has been disturbed by agriculture, grazing animals, logging, mining, construction, and recreational activities. (And Almond Butter), Oceanography vs Marine Biology (Are They Same or Different), 20+ Solid Reasons to Stop Deforestation That You Need to Know Today, Why is Biodiversity Important and Reasons For Loss of Biodiversity, Can Squirrels Eat Bread? Hence, wind erosion is a major source of soil degradation and desertification. Since Europeans settled in North America, about one-third of the topsoil in the area that is now the United States has eroded away. Sonia Madaan is a writer and founding editor of science education blog EarthEclipse. Wind erosion picks up dust particles of the soil and throws them into the air, causing air pollution. Deforestation and urbanization destroy the vegetation land cover. When she is not writing, she loves watching sci-fi movies on Netflix. The tree roots hold the soil together and the tree canopy protects the soil from hard falling rain. Sediments may also enter the fish gills, affecting their respiratory functions. Figure 7. Running water is one of the main cause of soil erosion. Such a case is evident in North America where dust winds from the Gobi desert have recurrently been a serious problem. Whyte (1957) while commenting on the problem of soil erosion of Kashmir Himalayas, mentioned, “control of fluctuating grazing was made the responsibility of forest department in 1939 but this appears to have little effect and the problem is as acute as ever”. Agricultural tillage depending on the machinery used also breaks down the soil particles, making the soils vulnerable to erosion by water. Near construction sites, dirt, picked up by the wind, is often in the air. 1. The severity of soil erosion is also dependent on the soil type and the presence of vegetation cover. The wind picks up the loose soil particles with its natural force and carries them away to far lands, leaving the soil sculptured and denudated. This erosive activity is evident in most rivers or streams especially during heavy rainfall and rapid river channel movement. The effects of soil erosion include: Lands used for crop production have been substantially affected by soil erosion. The agricultural plants that often replace the trees cannot hold onto the soil and many of these plants, such as coffee, cotton, palm oil, soybean and wheat, can actually worsen soil erosion. All soils undergo soil erosion, but some are more vulnerable than others due to human activities and other natural causal factors. Depending on the type of force, erosion can happen quickly or take thousands of years. It gradually transforms a habitable land and the ASAL regions into deserts. Water and wind moving across the surface of the soil always carry away some of the soil.If the erosion processes remove top-soil only as rapidly as top-soils formed from the parent material beneath, no harm results. Much of the world’s original forests have been logged. Weathered rock will be removed from its original site and transported away by a … Water and wind erosion are two main agents that degrade soils. Due to Soil Texture. Starting with the minor soil disruption caused by the impact of falling raindrops, splash erosion moves around small particles in the upper soil layer. This erosive activity is termed as lateral erosion which extends the valley floor and brings about a narrow floodplain. Agriculture is probably the most significant activity that accelerates soil erosion because of the amount of land that is farmed and how much farming practices disturb the ground (Figure 1). What are National Parks? A land is overgrazed if too many animals are living there. The type of soil moreover affects the potentiality of the occurrence of soil erosion. What is a Habitat and Reasons For Habitat Loss and Destruction? What Is Soil Erosion? (a) ATVs churn up the soil, accelerating erosion. Many of the tropical forests that remain are currently the site of logging because North America and Europe have already harvested many of their trees (Figure 4). Uneven distribution of rainfall. Soil structure and composition is another factor that determines erosivity of wind or rainfall. Wind erosion happens when wind gusts blow away unsecured soil. Over time, repeated rainfall can lead to significant amounts of soil loss. Of course, winter is also the stormy season in many locations, so wind and rain are available to wash soil away. Also Read: What is Soil? The process involves the loosening of the soil particles, blowing or washing away of the soil particles, and either ends up in the valley and faraway lands or washed away to the oceans by rivers and streams. Grazers expose soil by removing the plant cover for an area. The agents of soil erosion are the same as of other types of erosion: water, ice, wind, and gravity. The wet areas include; the shores of Lake Victoria, Kigezi highlands, Nyanza province, Imatong hills in southern Tanzania. In some delicate habitats, even hikers’ boots can disturb the ground, so it’s important to stay on the trail (Figure 7). This is because mass movements aids in the breakdown of the soil particles that makes them venerable to water and wind erosion. Water runs off the parking lot onto nearby lands and speeds up erosion in those areas. (a) The bare areas of farmland are especially vulnerable to erosion. Grazing animals can cause erosion if they are allowed to overgraze and remove too much or all of the vegetation in a pasture. How do Rainbows Form? Factors like heavy rainfall, flooding, high winds, and even mass movements are part and parcel of the cyclical nature of soil. It happens in the place where soil is not covered by plants. Deforestation causes some of the worst soil erosion. © 2020 . Tillage action moves soil to convergent areas of a field where surface water runoff concentrates. She loves writing on topics related to space, environment, chemistry, biology, geology and geography. Erosion is a process that causes the soil surface to wear out; geological erosion is caused naturally by water, wind or gravity, and accelerated erosion is caused by human use of land. Causes of Soil Erosion. Water. Running water is the leading cause of soil erosion, because water is abundant and has a lot of power. Soil erosion eats away the top soil which is the fertile layer of the land and also the component that supports the soil’s essential microorganisms and organic matter. Why are National Parks Important and How Do They Help the Environment? This usually leads to loss of biodiversity, alteration of ecosystems, land degradation, and huge economic losses. (b) Slash-and-burn agriculture leaves land open for soil erosion and is one of the leading causes of soil erosion in the world. The root structure of trees hold the soil in one place. Fine soil is blown away by wind. Erosion will often occur after rock has been disintegrated or altered through weathering. The transformations are worsened by the destructive use of the land and deforestation that leaves the soil naked and open to erosion. If too many animals graze the same land area, the animals’ hooves pull plants out by their roots. 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