Erosion is a natural occurrence that has been going on for long periods, literally millions of years.
The landscapes and rock formations seen today are the result of millions of years of natural erosion.
Erosion affects bodies of water and huge mountains as well as the soil.
Rock or earth is displaced by natural events such as wind, gravity and water current, bit by bit.
Some kinds of erosion are manmade but others occur naturally.
Since erosion can displace fertile soil into water sources, it’s considered to be an environmental issue.
Common Causes Of Soil Erosion
These are some of the common causes of soil erosion:
1) Commercial Agriculture
Every increasing food demand all over the globe means the removal of natural vegetation and topsoil exposure which destroyed the microorganism ecosystem balance in the soil.
The soil is quickly brushed into the water from the land without trees, plants and other wildlife. Cash and food crops are unable to retain the soil which speeds up erosion even more.
The land will eventually lose the fertile soil. As if that weren’t bad enough nearby water bodies will also be spoiled by sedimentation.
3) Herbicide and Pesticide Use
Farmers must use agrochemicals like pesticides and herbicides to make harvest predictable and keep up with global food demand.
These chemicals can alter the soil’s natural pH as well as disrupt the bio-diverse nature.
4) Too Much Grazing
More livestock farming for an ever-growing global population means extra livestock grazing. More and more fertile soil is exposed by this grazing, making it more likely to be eroded and compacted by rain and wind.
It might seem like erosion offers no benefits but actually there are some. Soil erosion is a natural phenomenon although human practices have sped it up.
There are advantages as well as disadvantages to both natural erosion and human-caused erosion. Let’s look at some of these pros and cons.
Pros of Erosion
Main pros of erosion are following:
1) Distribution of Nutrients
Human practices have pumped bodies of water with contaminants and chemicals but there are also natural types of soil erosion.
A study from the 1950s showed that natural soil erosion can result in essential nutrients being distributed which are good for aquatic biodiversity.
2) Landscape Formation
Changing landscape formations have resulted in some incredible sights. The Grand Canyon, for example, was created by natural soil erosion.
Gradual wind, gravity and water movement over many years have created other fascinating natural monuments.
3) Cleansing the Soil
Natural soil erosion can cleanse the soil by taking out toxic materials which accumulate on land.
Wind and water flow remove unnecessary substances from the surface of the land, such as weeds and rotten plants, to reveal a new soil layer under the useless materials.
This means the soil is nutritionally optimized and better for the growth of new plants.
Cons of Erosion
Main cons of erosion are:
1) Fertile Land Loss
One of the worst things about soil erosion is the loss of arable, fertile land. It is believed that humans might have lost as much as 30% of the fertile land on the planet to erosion, according to statistics found by Grantham Center researchers.
This loss is thought to be the results of only 40 years making this current consumption rate absolutely unsustainable.
Basically, we lose fertile soil these days faster than nature can replenish it.
Ammonia is an example of an additive used in growing food crops, but it can end up in bodies of water and negatively impact marine life.
2) Aquatic Habitat Destruction
Water flow causes soil erosion. When this happens, tiny bits of rock sediments end up in rivers and streams.
They not only disrupt the natural balance of the environment but fish can also mistake the sediments for food and eat them.
Some soil particles end up in riverbeds where water organisms and fish are to lay their eggs.
3) Less Water Retention
Water-based soil erosion takes away the top layer of soil.
Deeper soil doesn’t drain as well or retain water, which means the runoff won’t offer the correct moisture level to sustain plants growing.
The only way to solve this is for farmers to use tillages so the land is wet enough for plants to grow.
4) More Aquatic Vegetation
Soil erosion means the nutrients essential for plants to grow are transferred into the water via sedimentation.
This leads to too much growth of aquatic vegetation which creates problems for larger organisms like fish.
Plants such as algae can completely cover the water surface which doesn’t allow the ecosystem to get the support it requires from air and sunlight.
Reasons to Prevent Soil Erosion
There are evidently more cons than pros with erosion which is why it’s important for us to take measures against it.
Fertile soil helps combat climate change and increase important vegetation.
Tough topsoil preservation means less soil being transferred into water bodies and damaging aquatic life.
In addition, healthy soils mean irrigation works better with reducing agriculture and farm costs long term.
If you consider the topsoil an ecosystem in itself, which it is, keeping it as it is means better biodiversity.
How to Stop Soil Erosion
Soil erosion is a natural occurrence but too much of it these days is caused by humans. There are however methods to prevent so much soil erosions:
1) Sustainable Farming Practices
Regenerative farming practices can keep yields high as well as healing the environment.
This both conserves the soil’s ecosystems plus reduces soil erosion in general.
2) Use Tillage
Tillaging practices for conserving soil result in most crop residues staying on the surface and this results in less exposure to wind and water.
3) Build Walls
Walls built around the affected area would reduce soil sediment flow through water significantly, improving soil quality and water retention in the long run.
4) Limit Wind Erosion
Lands not directly exposed to bodies of water can be hit by wind erosion. Planting windbreaks can protect the soil by reducing the impact of the wind.
The above techniques can help solve some of the issues associated with erosion.
Since reducing soil degradation and sustaining the environment in the long run are both very important, it is worth knowing about these erosion pros and cons to create and implement effective strategies.