What is Water Erosion and How Do You Prevent It

By PSU EcoMerge Capstone - 10:23 PM


What causes water erosion?

Erosion is caused by the impact of raindrops on bare soil and by the power of running water on the soil surface. Natural erosion rates depend on inherent soil properties, slope, and climate, which together determine the ability of the site to support vegetation. Accelerated erosion occurs when the plant cover is depleted, the spaces between plants becomes larger, and soil structure is degraded by excessive disturbance or reduced inputs of organic matter. Compaction increases runoff and the risk of accelerated erosion. Runoff concentrated by poorly designed or maintained roads or trails can cause accelerated erosion on the adjacent slopes and in roadbeds. Many vegetation and soil properties affect the risk of erosion. Each specific soil has its own natural erosion rate. A sandy or clayey texture generally is less erodible than loam or silt loam. Sandy soils that formed in material weathered from decomposed granitic rock, however, are highly erodible. Soils with rock fragments or biological crusts on the surface are protected from the impact of raindrops. Stable soil aggregates bound together by organic matter resist erosion, enhance infiltration, and result in less runoff. The amount of runoff and the power of water to erode and transport soil are greater on long, steep slopes. Bare soil between plants is most susceptible to erosion.

What are some indicators of erosion?

Erosion and the risk of erosion are difficult to measure directly. Other soil properties that affect erosion and can change with management, including soil surface stability, aggregate stability, infiltration, compaction, and content of organic matter, can be measured. Measuring these properties can shed light on the susceptibility of a site to erosion. Comparing visual observations along with quantitative measurements to the conditions indicated in the ecological site description or a reference area helps to provide information about soil surface stability, sedimentation, and soil loss.


The visual indicators used to identify past erosion include:

• bare soil;
• pedestaled plants or rocks;
• exposed roots;
• terracettes (benches of soil deposited behind obstacles);
• an increase in the number and connectivity of waterflow
patterns between plants;
• soil deposition at slope changes;
• changes in thickness of topsoil;
• exposure of subsoil at the surface;
• rills, headcutting, and/or downcutting in gullies;
• sediment in streams, lakes, and reservoirs; and
• reduced plant growth.
When measured every few years, the following indicators can
be used to predict where accelerated erosion is likely to occur in
the future:
• an increase in the amount of bare ground or in the size or
connectivity of bare patches,
• reduced soil aggregate and soil surface stability, and
• reduced water infiltration.


Gain Knowledge about the different types of erosion by visiting this excellent website. Please attempt to practice what you learn here in your daily lives. The earth is our home and many people on our earth are unaware on the subject of soil erosion. Please share what you learn with your friends and family. Thank You.


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