Soil Erosion Causes

Explaining the Different Causes That Lead to Soil Erosion

When it comes to soil erosion causes, there is no particular cause that can be singled out as the main culprit. It has several underlying factors, some induced by nature and some by humans.
HelpSaveNature Staff
Last Updated: Jun 15, 2018
Soil Erosion
Soil erosion is the geological process wherein soil particles are detached and transported by various agents of erosion, namely water, wind, glaciers, and gravity.
The process is triggered by various phenomena taking place on the planet, ranging from slow-moving ice bodies in the glacial mountains, to landslides caused by earthquakes.
Types of Soil Erosion
Soil erosion is broadly categorized into different types depending on the agent which triggers the erosional activity.
Soil Erosion Close Up
Water erosion is seen in many parts of the world. In fact, running water is the most common agent of soil erosion. Water erosion is carried out by rivers, which erode the river basin; rainwater, which erodes various landforms; and sea waves, which erode the coastal areas.
Water erodes and transports soil particles from higher altitude and deposits them in low-lying areas.
Sand Dunes In Death Valley
Wind erosion is most often witnessed in dry areas wherein strong winds brush against various landforms, cutting through them, and loosening the soil particles, which are eroded and transported towards the direction in which the wind flows.
The best example of structures formed by wind erosion are mushroom rocks, typically found in deserts.
The Eyjafjallajokull Glacier Iceland
Glacial erosion, also referred to as ice erosion, is common in cold regions at high altitudes. When soil comes in contact with large, moving glaciers, it sticks to their base and gets transported along with them. Eventually, when the glaciers start melting, it is deposited in their course.
Gravitational erosion is not as common as water erosion, it can cause huge damage to natural as well as man-made structures. It is basically the mass movement of soil due to gravitational force.
The best examples of this are landslides, slumps, and soil creeps. While landslides and slumps happen within seconds, soil creep happens over a longer period.
What Causes Soil Erosion?
1.Human-induced Factors
Faulty farming systems, deforestation caused by overgrazing, clearance of land for agricultural purpose and construction, dam construction and diversion of the natural course of rivers, and mining activities weaken the topmost layer of the crust directly or indirectly, thus making it vulnerable to excessive wearing away by various agents of erosion.
The tree roots, for instance, help in holding the soil together, so the depletion of vegetation cover is bound to make soil vulnerable to erosion by running water.
2.Natural Factors
Gradient of Slope: Gradient of the slope is an important factor when it comes to soil erosion. In fact, erosion and gradient have a direct relationship. The steeper the gradient, higher is the rate of erosion, and vice versa. This factor plays an important role in water erosion, glacial erosion, and gravitational erosion.
Soil Properties: The vulnerability of a piece of land to soil erosion depends on the physical and chemical properties of the soil. Different types of soil have different physical and chemical properties.
The texture, structure, water retention capability, etc., play an important role in determining whether the soil is susceptible to erosion by various agents or not. This factor is common in all the aforementioned types of erosion.
Water Flow: Hydrological cycle, the surface flow as well as underground flow, also plays a major role in the erosional process. Variation in the velocity and type of the flow determines the gradient of soil erosion. This is the major factor when it comes to water erosion and at times, even in the case of glacial erosion.
Climate: Climate determines the precipitation levels and wind velocity. More precipitation means more surface flow, and more surface flow means more area vulnerable to erosion by running water.
Similarly, if the wind velocity is high, erosion will also be high and eroded material will be carried farther. The climate factor plays an important role in wind and water erosion.
All the geographical processes occurring on the planet are inter-related, and a slight alteration in one results in a domino effect on all the process which are directly or indirectly related to each other. For instance, if soil cover is depleted, vegetation cover will deplete, which, in turn, will affect the food source for humans.
It's high time we understand the geological concept of soil erosion, and initiate soil conservation and erosion control measures. We have already induced major hazards such as climate change and global warming on the planet, and adding more will only mean adding to our own woes.