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15 Types of Erosion and How to Prevent Them

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15 Examples of Erosion and How to Prevent Them

Human activity can cause erosion much faster than any natural process. In addition to moving rock particles and soil, debris can also be moved, causing buildups in low areas.

However, though often confused with each other, erosion and weathering are not the same thing.

Erosion, in broad terms, is the moving of soil, dissolved material, and/or broken rock particles from the site of the original location to someplace else [1].

On the other hand, weathering is when a rock gets broken down by the wind, rain, or something else but stays where it is.

Below are some examples of erosion and how to prevent them naturally.

1. Rill 

Whenever you see deep yet narrow channels carved into the ground by runoff, especially around your garden or house, these are rills.

These rills can be up to 0.3 meters deep. Unless you fill them in, they can become a hazard. 

2. Raindrop or Splash 

Rain comes in various forms, from a light sprinkle to a heavy downpour.

When raindrops hit the ground directly, they can hit with enough force to break the soil apart. The soil particles then splash onto the surface of the ground.

That process is what they call splash erosion.

3. Gully 

Gully erosion occurs when highly concentrated water runoff cuts deep grooves into the ground, moving soil along drainage lines.

Many start as small drainage areas and grow as the runoff surges and collapses the sides of the original groove.

4. Sheet 

Sheetwash results when flowing water strips away thin layers of topsoil from an area downhill.

The rainwater can sweep away anything loose. However, loose soil is the one thing we don’t want to lose.

5. Linear 

This is a form of water runoff that feeds off energy and volume. It happens when the soil is unable to hold excess water. As a result, runoff will start after rainwater fully soaks the soil [2].

6. Mass Movement, aka Landslide

Landslides are caused by water undermining the integrity of slopes, causing them to be washed away by the water.

This happens during heavy rains and flooding, sometimes at the same time. Landslides can be formed of just rock and soil or, in severe cases, entire mountainsides.

7. Streambed 

This happens when the sides of the stream collapse due to heavy rains and/or flooding.

Usually, the banks of the streams have very little vegetation or rock. Therefore, the soil strips away easily.

8. Tunnel 

There are times when water hits the ground so hard that it drills a hole into the earth. This follows gravity underground, creating a tunnel.

It can also follow the interiors of burrows and old drainage pipes. As more water flows into the tunnel and then floods over it, it causes the tunnel to collapse.

All the soil and rock are then swept away with the water.

9. Deflation

This is the stripping away of soil or sand to expose underlying rock, roots, or anything else under loose soil. Deflation is a type of wind erosion.

10. Accumulation

This is another type of erosion caused by the wind. Soil or sand remains wherever it falls once the wind dies down.

Accumulation can create dunes, build up areas along the edges of fields, and fill up small streams and other water sources. This kind of buildup is not necessarily beneficial.

11. Scalding

Caused by droughts when overgrazed land is subjected to a decent wind.

The lack of ground cover allows the wind to sweep away all loose soil. As a result, this creates a barren spot in an otherwise verdant area.

12. Glacial 

Everyone knows a glacier is one big moving mountain or hill of solid ice. Only, it’s not just ice. As glaciers thaw and freeze, they move.

As they move, they dig into the ground. They take with them loose soil and even rock. They are said to have carved out the coastal area of many islands in the north.

13. Tillage 

Tilling creates deep grooves in the ground and breaks up the soil. While this is a good thing, to a degree, too much tilling can cause soil loss.

This loss comes not only from wind and rain but also from people. Soil can be carried off on your boots or by simply clearing out rows for planting.

14. Floodplain 

Floodplains are the main paths floods take, stripping everything along the way. They tend to start as small streams or gullies that erode sideways instead of down into the ground.

They take up miles of space and tend to follow gravity down any kind of slope, no matter how shallow.

15. Coastal 

Wave action causes the deterioration of coastlines. Even the smallest of waves can eat away the soil and loose rocks of a coastline, drastically changing its shape over time.

During major storms and hurricanes, waves can cause massive landslides and flooding. As a result, this causes drastic changes in the coastline.

How to Prevent Water Erosion in Farming

The washing away of soil by water is the most common form of land damage in agriculture.

Soil erosion is the movement of soil from one place to another, usually to a place where it is not beneficial.

The effects of it can be very detrimental. Here’s how to prevent water erosion naturally:

  • Plant trees: planting trees native to the area provides roots and leaves to protect areas of loose soil. Leaves can keep rain from falling so hard on the ground. Additionally, roots hold the soil together.
  • Plant ground cover: ground covers provide stability to the soil and protect it from direct rainfall.
  • Build retaining walls: build these on slopes out of brick, stone, or treated wood as long as they run along the contour of the ground with just enough slope to keep them from pooling at their centers.
  • Use mulch; mulch adds weight to the soil. Mulch can also protect young plants and seedlings on slopes.
  • Use drip irrigation; watering your lawn or garden is like having rain on it. Traditional watering methods can cause washaways, just like rain. However, you can deliver water in small doses by using drip irrigation.
  • Reduce or avoid soil compaction; heavily compacted soil can cause run-off because the water can’t sink into the soil readily. Compaction is usually caused by walking over the same area all the time. The same goes for heavy machinery. However, establishing set paths for walking and machinery will lessen compaction and prevent soil loss.

Preventing Wind Erosion 

Usually, vegetation is depleted, and the soil is left bare to the forces of the wind.

Below are a few prevention methods:

  • Plant vegetation—cultivate the land with either cash crops or cover crops.
  • Cover the soil; spread manure or mulch over the bare soil.
  • Avoid overgrazing; do not allow animals to eat away the grass that holds the soil together. Spots of bare soil when animals are grazing are a sure sign of overgrazing.
  • Prevent water damage: heavy showers or overwatering can leave the soil bare, which becomes vulnerable to gusty winds when it is dry.

As you can see, humans contribute greatly to soil erosion. However, there are things we can do to lessen its impact on our landscape.

Image via commons.wikimedia/Volker Prasuhn

Andre Campbell

Organic farmer and co-founder of Dre Campbell Farm. He appreciates everything in nature—sunshine, plants, animals, and human life.

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