What is Soil Erosion? – Causes, effects, types, and control of soil erosion

What is soil erosion?

The process of soil formation takes thousands of years, so we may consider soil as a non-renewable source.

Soil Erosion is a process by which soil is moved from one place to another. Erosion is a natural process mostly caused by water and wind, that removes topsoil, reduces the soil quality, and damages the soil structure. However, it’s mostly accelerated by human activities such as farming, urban development, forestry, etc. Loss of the soil reduces soil fertility and also reduces soil water holding capacity.

Causes of soil erosion

     The main natural agents that responsible for soil erosion are wind and water. The soil erosion, caused by water is termed as water erosion and the same by the wind it termed as wind erosion. The root of vegetation holds the soil, reduces the flow of wind and water. Therefore, Vegetation is helpful to reduce soil erosion. By destroying trees, the flow of air and water on the ground is accelerated and that results in soil erosion. Altogether, below are the major causes of soil erosion by human activities:

  • Deforestation
  • Overgrazing of cattle
  • Construction activities 
  • Unplanned Farming
  • Mining

Factors affecting soil erosion

1. The slope of land

The slope of the land determines the amount of erosion. If the land is flat then the soil erosion process is slow, but erosion on sloping land is more and quicker especially water erosion

2. Rainfall

Rainfall is another factor affecting the process of erosion. Excessive rain takes away the top layer of soil which shows more water erosion. Drought area shows more wind erosion as the topsoil layer is dry and easily gets flowed away by the wind.

3. River or stream flow

The rivers erode the shore soil and take away the soil with water. Sometimes stream or river changes the direction of flow which results in soil erosion.

4. Soil texture and structures

 The soil structure and texture also affect the erosion. Certain types of soil blowing easily with wind and some types of soil show less erosion.

Moreover, factors such as climate, wind force, types of vegetation, etc also affecting soil erosion.

Water erosion

   If the responsible agent for soil erosion is water then it’s called water erosion. The few factors such as rainfall, vegetation, sloping of the ground, etc affect the water erosion. Some different water erosion types discussed below:

1. Splash erosion

Splash erosion is the breakdown of the soil structure due to the falling of water drops on the soil. It’s the initial stage of water erosion.

2. Sheet Erosion

When splash erosion occurs, after that water starts flowing on the ground, during this water also takes away the soil with it. This type of erosion called sheet erosion. Sheet erosion leads to maximum soil erosion as it’s common erosion and is found everywhere where water flows.

3. Rill erosion

Where the ground is sloping, there flow of water increases due to the slope and small drains are seen on the ground, this is called rill erosion.

4. Gully erosion

 When the ground is more sloping, then rill erosion turns into gully erosion, where small drains become wider and fast flowing.

5. Stream bank Erosion

the erosion of the riverbank due to the flow of river water is termed as riverbank erosion. 

6. Slip erosion

Slip erosion is mostly seen in mountainous areas when the landslide occurred due to water erosion.

Wind erosion

It’s the erosion where the wind is the main agent for soil erosion. Wind erosion occurs in three ways:

1. Suspension

When small particles of soil experience wind force, it gets suspended in the air and keeps blowing in the air and move a long distance. This type of wind erosion is seen when particles are smaller than 0.1 mm.

2. Saltation

Another type of wind erosion is saltation, where soil particles move from another place with saltation. This type of wind erosion generally seen when the size of soil particles is in the range of 0.1-0.5 mm. Mostly wind erosion occurred by saltation.

3. Creeping

Soil particles that are more than 0.5 mm in size do not raise in the air due to heavy mass rather they creeping forward on the ground. This erosion called surface creeping.

Controlling soil erosion

Soil erosion can be protected by changes in the crop, water management practices, and tillage. A few practices and methods to prevent soil erosion are given below:

  • The construction of steps reduces the stability and length of the slope, which reduces the velocity of water and not much soil erosion occur.
  • Apply some methods to reduce the force of wind and the flow of water. The method could be planting windbreaks, contour cultivation, strip-cropping, etc.
  • Build the dam to control runoff
  • Use a protective cover on the soil.

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