We explain what soil erosion is, how it is classified and what its causes are. In addition, its consequences and how to avoid it.
What is soil erosion?
Soil erosion is the process of erosion of the earth’s surface as a result of the impact of geological actions (such as water or thaw currents ), climatic actions (such as heavy rains or winds) or human activity (such as the agriculture , the deforestation , expansion of cities , among others).
Soil erosion is a discontinuous and slow phenomenon that consists in the mobilization of landslides and, in the long term, generates changes in the appearance of the land. There are cases in which erosion occurs in an accelerated manner due to natural disasters or excessive human actions, which causes soil degradation with loss of organic matter and minerals.
Types of soil erosion
There are three main types of natural soil erosion:
- Water erosion. It is produced by the passage of water flow that can be rain or river.
- Wind erosion. It is produced by the wind that blows hard.
- Gravitational erosion It is produced by gravity due to the fall of rocks or the melting of glaciers, from the top of a hillside.
There is another type of soil erosion that occurs more rapidly:
- Anthropic erosion It is produced by human activity that impacts on the wear and tear of the soil, such as intensive agriculture, deforestation, the construction of canals and routes, the expansion of urban areas, the raising of intensive livestock, Mining, among the main ones.
Causes of soil erosion
The causes of soil erosion can be diverse and the main ones include:
- The movement of water. In the form of rains, rivers or sea currents , the water hits the ground and releases part of the surface, which is washed away by the current.
- The movement of the wind. The blow of the strong winds against the ground, releases particles and remains of the surface (in the form of dust, sand or rocks) and moves them.
- The movement of rocks and glaciers. The release of ice in the glaciers or rocks that descend from the top of a hillside, causes wear or cracks in its path.
- Exposure to extreme temperatures. Extremely hot or cold weather conditions that manifest themselves for a long time, alter the soil surface and cause cracks or ruptures that facilitate wear.
- The use and abuse of the earth by the human. Excessive human activity, such as intensive agriculture or the construction of urban areas, causes soil deterioration, in many cases, with irreversible damage.
Consequences of soil erosion
The main consequences of soil erosion due to human actions imply:
- Loss of fertile land yield for the sustainability of agricultural ecosystems and for land productivity.
- The increase in pollution and sedimentation of streams and rivers causes the decrease of the species that live there.
- Desertification of the soil makes the land an arid or unfit for life (due to lack of water, vegetation and food ).
- The reduction of filtering capacity in desertified soils can generate flooding in the area.
- The ecosystem imbalance generates loss of biodiversity , that is, of animal and plant populations .
- The global climate is greatly altered by the reduction of forests that have the capacity to absorb carbon dioxide .
How to avoid soil erosion?
To avoid erosion and soil wear due to human actions, the best solution is the prevention and development of activities such as:
- The sustainable use of the land. It can help reduce the impacts of agriculture and livestock, and avoid soil degradation due to nutrient loss.
- The reforestation. The planting of trees and plants favors the restoration of ecosystems and soil maintenance.
- The planting of vegetation. Promoting sustainable planting in exposed territories or areas where there was deployment of construction machinery, helps stabilize the land and its nutrients.
- The construction of drainage channels. In areas where the soil has low absorption capacity, drains can help channel water to prevent flooding.
Deforestation and soil erosion
Deforestation is the action caused by humans that consists in dismantling forests and jungles through logging or burning. If this action is carried out intensively and is not followed by the practice of adequate reforestation, it causes serious damage to the soil and the ecosystem, among which are:
- The loss of habitat of millions of animal and plant species. It is the most dramatic impact because living things cannot survive the destruction of their surroundings.
- Climate change. The indiscriminate felling of trees alters the climatic conditions, because they protect the soil and maintain the humidity of the environment and the hydrological cycle that returns steam to the atmosphere .
- A greater greenhouse effect. In addition to intervening in the climate, trees absorb the gases that cause global warming. Its absence, due to indiscriminate logging, alters the concentration of gases in the atmosphere.
Vegetation maintains soil properties, prevents erosion, occupies a key place in the water cycle – and consequently in the climate – and conserves biodiversity. Therefore, to maintain the harmony of the ecosystem, soil care and maintenance is essential.