Earth: Soil Erosion



Soil erosion can also increase water pollution: the sediment and soil particles are pollutants in their own right but often carry additional pollutants with them.

Soil erosion has been described as ‘skinning the earth’ and it has been estimated that, on a global scale, 24 billion tons of soil are eroded by wind and water every year (Guttman-Bond 2010, 360). Terraces therefore represent an important ancient mechanism for conserving soil.

Soils are really important to us for many reasons – water quality has already been mentioned but they are also vital for food production and biodiversity. However, as climate changes, the implications for soil erosion may be serious. A higher frequency or higher intensity of rain may increase soil erosion by water; and in dry areas, prolonged drought periods may increase soil erosion by wind.

At the same time, the ever greater need for food resulting from population increase is seeing soils farmed intensively, without cessation, which is quite literally killing soils – for they are living things that require nurture or will become depleted and die.

Currently, the nutrient gap is being filled by chemical fertilizers but these are quick-fix solutions that bring long-term problems (in the end they lead to soil degradation). Furthermore, the fertilizer are, themselves, a source of environmental pollution. Is there a solution? This is something we will consider this in the next chapter – ‘Waste’.

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