In the process of erosion, a natural removal of rocks and soil takes place from the surface of the Earth. Soil and rocks get moved by the flow of water and wind and they are transported and deposited at different other locations.
What Is Erosion
Soil erosion process is basically a natural one. However the process has increased dramatically to around four times. All over the world, the rate of erosion has been increasing. Due to this there are adverse effects caused like sedimentation, degradation of land, desertification, loss of soil layers and a collapse in the ecological system. The rich topsoil on the land which is rich in nutrients gets lost in an ecological collapse.
Agents Of Erosion
Soil erosion is caused due to different agents that are related to humans, indirectly or directly. Hence erosion is of different types, like water erosion, wind erosion, gravitational erosion and exfoliation. Gravity, water, glaciers and wind are the soil erosion agents. On the planet, different phenomena trigger erosion of soil. Earthquakes, bodies of ice that keep moving slowly, landslides and the glacier filled mountains are the causes of erosion of soil.
Soil erosion is categorized mainly into four different types depending upon the triggering agent. Processes of wind erosion are seen in dry regions. Against landforms of different kinds, strong winds brush, cut them through leading to soil particle loosening. These eroded particles get transported it the direction of flowing wind.
In deserts, mushroom rocks are formed in this manner. Water causes soil erosion. Water erodes basin of rivers and different landforms. Coastal regions get eroded by waves of the sea. From a higher altitude, particles of soil get eroded, transported and deposited on a low lying area. Gravity causes soil erosion. As compared to erosion caused by water, this is not so common. Structures made by man and the natural structures, both, get damaged in gravitational erosion. Soil moves, in a huge mass. Slumps and landslides are the common gravitational erosion, examples. Glaciers cause ice erosion or glacial erosion. When large glaciers move, it leads to soil erosion. While ice chunks move on melting, this erosion takes place.
Causes Of Erosion
Erosion of soil is caused due to a number of reasons. Erosion of soil is induced by humans and nature, both. Erosion due to water is caused by freezing, rainfall, thawing, erosion on coastal regions, floods and glaciers. The rate of erosion is affected by the speed of wind and precipitation, composition of soil and structure of soil, the topography and the vegetation cover. The rate of erosion gets increased due to a number of activities of humans.
These include cutting down of forests, different kinds of practices used in agriculture, urbanization and construction of roads and changes in climate. The environment also affects erosion in a big way. The global environment gets affected by the degradation of soil, dust pollution that is airborne, aquatic ecosystem sedimentation and the tectonic effects. Erosion needs to be monitored and measured so that preventive and remedial measures can be taken. Land gets degraded due to two main causes like wind and water. As of today, one of the major issues faced by the global environment is erosion.
How Is Man Responsible For Erosion
Humans take up different activities like constructing roads, deforestation, urbanization and industrialization, etc due to which the erosion process gets stimulated. For the sake of residential purposes, concrete buildings are being built and forest cover is being destroyed which is called deforestation. Industrial growth too has increased significantly due to which land is being used leading to soil erosion. If efforts are taken in the right direction then the rate of erosion gets limited or curtailed. Practices like agriculture with the no tilling method, building of terraces for growing vegetation and denuded soil re-vegetation are the alternative uses of land.
Advantages Of Erosion
Erosion of soil is generally thought of in negative terms, generally. However a lot of studies have been conducted by scientists on the positive effects of soil erosion. It has been provide that erosion does benefit the environment to a great extent. The greenhouse effect gets slowed down due to soil erosion. When erosion of soil takes place, an important element in the greenhouse effect called carbon gets carried along with the soil. In the wetland areas, deposits of this greenhouse element take place. For the wetland regions this has been considered to be very beneficial. Carbon is taken in by the wetlands and stored for long time periods. Thus soil erosion does prove to be useful in fighting the effects of global warming.
Disadvantages Of Erosion
When loss of soil from the land takes place it leads to soil erosion. The process is natural and continual in different regions of the planet. However this loss of soil from the surface of the land can prove to detrimental to aquatic and terrestrial environments both. Nutrients in the soil get depleted up to a huge extent. Aquatic life gets affected due to the depositing of silt in water bodies. Eroding of top soil takes place in soil erosion which means for plant life sustenance, not enough nutrients are available in the lower layers that are exposed. To maintain nutrients in agricultural soil, hence potassium, nitrogen and phosphorous has to be added in the form of fertilizers. Soil nutrients have to be increased in the topsoil layer that is new.
When erosion of topsoil takes place, exposure of the soil located in deeper areas, occurs which has lesser capacity to hold water and drainage is at reduced rates. In such regions the runoff increases leading to organic matter reduction. Tilling of land, adding of organic matter and topsoil thus becomes necessary. This helps in increasing drainage ability of the soil in significant amounts. For growth of plants, adequate moisture is thus retained.
Difference Between Erosion And Weathering
The processes, erosion as well as weathering are geological in nature. Surface of the earth gets its shape when they act together. In the process of weathering, fragmentation of solid rocks takes place. Rocks break into smaller pieces in weathering. In erosion, moving ice, flowing water and blowing of wind are involved in picking up fragmented rocks or soil particles and then transporting them to a different location.
Chemical and physical weathering are two kinds of weathering. When rocks collide with each other, they fragment or break down. Due to pressure release, the rocks fracture. Within the fractures of rocks, crystals of ice accumulate and sometimes even plants grow and their roots cause the rocks to break.
In chemical weathering, water from oceans, rainfall, lakes, streams or atmospheric oxygen reacts with minerals contained in rocks. This reaction leads to the production of new minerals. Ice, water and wind are the main agents that transport rock fragments in the weathering process. Due to this, hydroxides, clay minerals, oxides of aluminum, quartz and iron are the end products obtained.
Important Tourist Destinations That Are The Result Of Erosion
In the Malaysian peninsula in South East Asia is located a beautiful country, Singapore, a great holiday destination. Here due to the result of erosion and wind there are a number of naturally formed chimneys called Gerome which attract many tourists.
In Tobago and Trinidad there are natural bridges caused due to soil erosion and have become a major attraction amongst tourists. Not only do the locals admire them but the thousands of tourists visiting the place also admire these bridges that compliment the line of the coast.
Arch formations can also be seen in the Caribbean due to soil erosion. They are the most prominent arches within the region and people throng to see these wonders of nature here. The Fig Wharf and the Brasso Seco are also the naturally created inland bridges that are remarkable. The rivers in the region have molded these formations helped by the force of wind.
What Can Be Done To Reduce The Rate Of Erosion
Erosion of soil has some very harmful effects due to which is becomes very important for everyone to take up the responsibility to prevent this as far as possible. Soil quality gets largely affected in soil erosion besides productivity of the soil. When fertility of the soil is lost, it can affect growth of plant and animal life adversely. Regaining the lost fertility becomes a difficult task. Lands used for farming purposes do not remain productive any more. In certain cases the land becomes completely unproductive or barren. Growing plants and crops in such regions does not prove to be beneficial. When there is no agricultural output, then this has adverse affects on the living and the economic conditions of humans. Soil loss can affect vegetation growth. When vegetation gets affected, then in turn there are changes in climate, and due to imbalance in the ecology there are environmental issues to face, in the process. Soil cannot be created. It recreates over a thousand of years. Hence every person should be responsible and do his or her bit to prevent soil erosion. If proper measures are taken then it is possible to prevent erosion of soil.
An effective approach is to apply mulches around plants and trees as protective covering during extreme climatic conditions. Mulch prevents water from reaching the soil too fast and hence forceful watering and heavy rainfall does not affect much. PH levels in soil get neutralized due to mulches of different kinds. Make sure that needs of individual trees and plants are understood well before mulch application.
One of the best methods is to plant vegetation. Farmers can grow a large number of crops, trees to prevent soil erosion. Grass cover too aids to a large extent in keeping soil in place. Besides adopting this process in agricultural areas, vegetation can be planted in residential areas as well. Trees can be planted on landscapes near residential areas. Besides this shrubs and other plants can be grown. Impact of over watering, rainfall and wind can be reduced due to growth of vegetation. Soil properties also get stabilized due to which erosion of soil gets prevented. Small trees, herbs and wild flower plants can be grown for soil erosion prevention. Creepers are a great choice also since they crawl over the soil surface and thus help in reducing erosion of soil.
Soil erosion can be prevented by matting just like mulching. Plants and lawns can benefit from matting consisting of biodegradable fibers of wood and its products. Ensure that the matting thickness maintained is suitable enough to prevent soil erosion. Another effective method of preventing soil erosion is edging. In the plans made for gardening, retaining walls should be incorporated. This helps in preventing wet patches or puddles of mud being formed. Around the beds in gardens, edging can be done to shield soil and prevent its erosion. The water bed too is able to retain adequate water. Penetration of water takes place gradually into the soil. Besides these methods, various other measures adopted to prevent eroding of soil are wind breaker creation, farming on sloping areas which is termed as contour farming and also growing of trees on farmland and gardens. If more trees are planted then the wind will not able to blow the top soil away.
What The Geologists And Scientists Have To Say
As per scientists and geologists there is a correlation between changes in the environment and erosion of soil. New niches are created due to changes in the environment. New organisms have evolved due to changes in genetic material. Whenever there is a change in environmental conditions the newly created genetic material does take advantage of the same. Mineral resources are generated from the erosion of materials including soil. The minerals prove to be necessary for marine life in the formation of skeleton and shells etc. Soil erosion is a natural process and has its very own positive effects on the environment as per geologists and scientists. Man however needs to play an important role in preventing excessive soil erosion.