Monday, July 26, 2010

Soil erosion - Definition and meaning

Soil erosion is also major ecological problem that doesn't receive adequate media coverage like this is the case with climate change and air pollution. It is very difficult to find the adequate definition for soil erosion, mostly because soil erosion is studied by different scientific fields like geomorphology, ecology, agricultural engineering, hydrology, and each of these disciplines has different priorities when defining soil erosion.

The simplest soil erosion definition would be "a form of soil degradation that affects natural environment and agriculture". The most common consequences of soil erosion are loss of soil structure, poor internal drainage, soil acidity problems, and huge loss of organic matter in the soil.

The thing you also need to know about the soil erosion is that this process is naturally occurring, and has been happening on our planet for more than 450 million years, ever since the time first plants on land formed the first soil structure.

So soil erosion is natural process. But if soil erosion is natural process why so many environmentalists refer to it as one of the biggest environmental problems? This is because soil erosion process has been increased dramatically by human land use such as industrial agriculture, deforestation, and urban sprawl. Nature ensures that erosion is kept at acceptable levels while industrial agriculture causes much higher rate of erosion that results in reduction of vegetation cover on the surface of the soil and does great damage to soil structure and plant roots.

To make things as simple as possible we could say that as long nature does the erosion work, erosion is in fact healthy for ecosystems and surrounding environment but as soon humans step in we are talking about excessive soil erosion that is very damaging to our environment.

Is there any solution that could stop excessive soil erosion, and reduce its negative environmental effects? Well, if we were to improve land use practices that would be of great help in limiting erosion, for instance by using practices such as terrace-building, conservation tillage practices, and tree planting.

I also need to mention that soil erosion is not the only form of soil degradation as there are also other forms of soil degradation such as salinisation, nutrient loss, and compaction. Soil erosion also need to be distinguished from weathering which is the process of chemical or physical breakdown of the minerals in the rocks, although the two processes may occur concurrently.

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