With previously cultivated lands turning into deserts, many communities across the world are losing their only chance of providing enough food for themselves or their livestock. Luc Gnacadja, executive secretary of UN’s Convention to Combat Desertification, said that desertification is “the greatest environmental challenge of our time” and “a threat to global wellbeing” . Since everything we eat starts with what grows in the ground, soil erosion’s primary impact for people is how it impacts the food chain. A new study backed by the United Nations estimates that one third of all the land is severely degraded worldwide . When erosion takes place, soil particles get loosen by water, wind or gravitational pull and can be easily carried away by the repeated action of these forces. Wind often picks up fine particles of sand, silt and organic matter and buries or breaks seedlings, while exposing seeds or plant roots in other places. Possibly the most direct detrimental effect is from wind-borne erosion, where dust is breathed into the lungs of individuals, sometimes containing harmful chemicals and particles like silica that can cause silicosis. Soil erosion results in land that will not sustain agriculture. Illegal amber mining in Ukraine has left behind thousands of hectares of destroyed land. Humans may be directly or indirectly affected by land pollution. ); physical (infiltration, soil structure, bulk density, etc. Pollen, microscopic organisms, plant material and dander (dead skin cells shed by animals) are also part of the dust in the environment. In some locations, spaces between buildings create pathways for wind that magnify its erosive power. Deforested areas turn into arable lands or overgrazed pastures lose their ability to effectively capture and retain water. Sedimentation which is out of 70 percent brought about by human-induced erosion . You can be the one who takes over this task and becomes the facilitator of the change for better soils. Nearly 10 million hectares of arable land are lost to erosion and other forms of soil degradation every year . #4: Mulch with plants to prevent soil erosion (Micro Level) Plants are abundant in most backyards and gardens and can help reduce soil erosion. A common problem of degraded lands is a sealing of the soil surface. In the most visited places, tourists trample the vegetation around trails, slowly creating larger patches of vegetation free surface. Or the force of water gives rise to the formation of small rills that can eventually develop into gullies. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily, its staff, its contributors, or its partners. But emerging research suggests that the soil microbiome might have an even more direct effect on our health by communicating directly with our own cells and by boosting the nutrient content of … For example, a small village Napakiak has lost in one single storm 50 feet of its shoreline to erosion . With some areas getting more frequently heavy rains and other areas suffering of prolonged droughts, the risk of erosion is expected to rise around the world. "Yet, controlling soil erosion is really quite simple: The soil can be protected with cover crops when the land is not being used to grow crops.". Frequently walked trails become compacted, which leads to the decreased soil permeability and higher surface runoff. About 60 percent of soil that is washed away ends up in rivers, streams and lakes, making waterways more prone to flooding and to contamination from soil's fertilizers and pesticides. For example, Indian government has measured the rate of sedimentation in 11 water reservoirs around the country and found out that the amount of deposited material is up to 1,600 percent higher than previously expected. Wind erosion picks up dust particles of the soil and throws them into the air, causing air pollution. This results in the loss of topsoil and will affect the health of the whole ecosystem as well as our capability to make the use of it – for growing crops, for example. Erosion promotes critical losses of water, nutrients, soil organic matter and soil biota, harming forests, rangeland and natural ecosystems. Despite the access to modern technology and modelling tools, erosion still unpleasantly surprises many project designers. This creates a direct path for erosive processes to redistribute all this (noxious) material to distant locations and remodel already severely damaged landscape. Diseases caused by Soil Pollution – Soil pollution is characterized by the continuous accumulation of toxic products, salts, radioactive materials, chemicals or disease-causing agents, which are harmful to humans and the environment. Erosion promotes critical losses of water, nutrients, soil organic matter and soil biota, harming forests, rangeland and natural ecosystems. It is time to start carrying about what happens with this resource and whether it has been managed in a sustainable manner. The effect of soil moisture and temperature on soil nitrate, ammonium, and carbon dioxide can determine the accuracy of prediction for nitrogen availability (Clark, 2007). Cornell University. Loess Plateau in China is infamous for the world’s highest erosion rates. Cornell University. "Soil Erosion Threatens Environment And Human Health, Study Reports." When large groups of animals feed from one area, the vegetation cannot naturally regenerate and will start dying. This happens because inclined surfaces do not absorb water as well as straight surfaces. For example, researchers from the Plymouth University in the United Kingdom were appointed to investigate alarming levels of soil erosion in Tanzania. In fact, vegetation is one of the greatest tools in the prevention of erosion. This contamination has significant risks to human health. In the search for a land that will provide satisfactory yields, local farmers cut more of the forest and the same story repeats again. The loss of trees and other vegetation can cause climate change, desertification, soil erosion, fewer crops, flooding, increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and a host of pro… Rainy years in 2010 and 2011 in Colombia led to extreme flooding of the Magdalena River, whose banks are a home to 80 percent of Colombians. Topsoil is crucial for plant growth because it contains the majority of organic matter and 50 percent of important nutrients such as phosphorus and potassium . In general, healthy soils are capable to withstand weather extremities the best. In fact, to predict the future rate of erosion when planning a new construction project is extremely difficult, since there are so many possible triggers. In many cases, erosion is the first step that starts the irreversible transformation of the landscape into the barren desert. ... as well as how these changes affect human health, wealth and happiness. It has several effects that vary in intensity and scale. Plenty of people should be, stressed Pimentel, whose study on the food and environmental threat of soil erosion is published in a recent issue of the Journal of the Environment, Development and Sustainability (Vol. This increases the surface runoff which washes off fragmented pieces of soil in between. Soil particles are washed off into rivers, giving water a specific red color and leaving patches of eroded red dirt dispersed all over the land. Harmful effects of soil pollution and remedial thinking With the rapid growth of human population, the amount of food we need is becoming scarce and crop quality is deteriorating. Degraded land cannot support these essential soil functions or growth of vegetation, and therefore, renders affected land unsuitable for cultivation. Mining, one of the activities that enabled the growth of our economies, has severely scared the face of our... #2 Deforestation. When an area gets flooded, most of the vegetation is stripped away, which leaves originally covered soils fully exposed to the erosive force of rain. Note: Content may be edited for style and length. Cities are also characteristic with large amounts of impervious surfaces that do not allow water to infiltrate into the ground at all. ); chemical (pH, reactive carbon, soil nitrate, etc. Overgrazing is another major contributor to erosion. I pull or chop back weeds, as well as vigorous-growing herbs and flowers. Land that was previously a home to lush forests and prospering ecosystems is turned into lifeless swaths of mud and post-mining craters filled with water that was pumped there under pressure to help uncover amber deposits underneath. Crop emergence, growth and yield are directly affected by the loss of natural nutrients and applied fertilizers. Flowing water bodies such as rivers or streams put continuous pressure on the walls and the bottom of their channel. Soil erosion is an ongoing process that affects each site in a slightly different way. Massive Prehistoric Croc Emerges from South East Queensland, The 'Crazy Beast' That Lived Among the Dinosaurs. Some soils are more prone to erosion than others and the main factors that affect their vulnerability are: It is not a coincidence that all these four characteristics are equally as important for soil fertility as they are for the ability of soils to resist erosion. The economic impact of soil erosion in the United States costs the nation about $37.6 billion each year in productivity losses. Children are even more susceptible to the harms of soil pollution since they spend most of their time playing in close contact with the soil. Erosion increases the amount of dust carried by wind, which not only acts as an abrasive and air pollutant but also carries about 20 human infectious disease organisms, including anthrax and tuberculosis. It can occur in any area densely populated by trees and other plant life, but the majority of it is currently happening in the Amazon rainforest. Erosion from the wind causes particles of soil to become suspended in the air. The effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. The rate of erosion in forests is naturally very low because complex root systems of … Climate change comes with many changes for our planet and the environment. We can see the effect of this after heavy rains when small water streams find their way down a hiking trail. Since water comes with a great destructive power, with every new storm it will cut deeper and deeper into the trail, transforming it completely. 1.6 billion tons of soil are washed off into the Yellow River from the plateau every year. Increased runoff, for example, leads to frequent flooding after rain, while soil overall becomes drier because it loses its water holding capacity over the long term. Soil erosion occurs when upper layers of soil are removed from their original location in the process that is either slow and goes unnoticed for long periods of time or can be sudden and cause immediate damage (for example: appearance of a rill in the middle of a crop field after heavy rain). In some unfortunate cases, tumultuous water even tears down houses, bridges or other otherwise sturdy structures. In our overview of the impacts of forest management activities on soil erosion and productivity, we show that erosion alone is seldom the cause of greatly reduced site productivity. Soil erosion affects soil health and productivity by removing the highly fertile topsoil and exposing the remaining soil. In some cases, it is the combination of more of these factors that influence soil stability and health. The lifetime of these reservoirs has been therefore significantly shortened . Maintaining soil in good health is a primary concern to farmers but the effects of soil erosion go beyond the loss of fertile land. We are working hard to improve our content. Soils themselves could potentially sequester enough greenhouse gases in a year to equal about 5% of all annual human-made GHG emissions. 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Some of the dust particles may contain harmful and toxic particles such as petroleum and pesticides that can pose a severe health hazard when inhaled or ingested. Besides introducing new pollutants in the water, soil transported into water bodies disrupts aquatic ecosystems by changing chemical and physical properties of water. ScienceDaily. The outcome are deep gullies (up to 26 feet!) "Erosion is a slow and insidious process," stressed Pimentel. And as you can imagine, the steeper and the longer the hill is, more velocity and force this water gains. This leads to the increased surface runoff, which initiates the following forms of erosion. The same scenario happens when off-road biking, horse riding, having fun with ATVs or parking cars on the side of the road. Soil erodibility is the natural susceptibility of a soil to erosion. The floods were a tragedy for these people, forcing 2.5 million people to relocate and destroying one million hectares of crops. The natural erosion of soil, sand and rock is the most common source of dust. alarming levels of soil erosion in Tanzania, Negative Effects of Overgrazing for Native Species, Why Is Biodiversity Important to Ecosystems, 200,000 hectares of land in the Philippines, heavy metals, agricultural chemicals and other contaminants. When rainforests are cut to make space for crops, valuable topsoil erodes away under the pressure of heavy rains and crop yields decline in a very short period of time. Although this occurs naturally, degraded, drier soils are more susceptible to wind erosion causing an increase in overall air pollution in certain areas. For example, most cultivated lands in Iowa lose to erosion two to five tons of topsoil per acre per year . The Dust Bowl was caused primarily by the misjudgment of the local climate and ecology. "And that kind of loss occurs year after year by wind and rain around the world.". Without having space large enough, animals also repeatedly trample the vegetation and soil, triggering its further degradation and making the plant recovery more difficult. One dust storm creating a wall of 2 miles and traveling over 2,000 miles even reached the New York City, giving the first-hand experience of powerful erosive forces to its residents . It doesn't sound like much, but when you consider a hectare (2.5 acres), it would take 13 tons of topsoil -- or 20 years if left to natural processes -- to replace that loss," Pimentel said. Erosion increases the amount of dust carried … One of the most talked about effects of climate change is a changing rainfall pattern. The combination of these factors then results in progressively eroding trails and areas around them as people try to avoid slippery or muddy surface of the main trail. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2006/03/060322141021.htm (accessed December 28, 2020). Inexperienced farmers settled in the area and in the hope of making profit from increased prices of wheat, turn millions of acres of native grassland into heavily tilled fields. This condition is caused by a number of natural factors, including wind and water erosion as well as nutrient imbalances, but people also leave an indelible impact on the earth. Extreme events accompanied by floods, land-slides and debris flow also take their toll on the health of our soils. The reason for this is that erosion is caused by numerous factors, originating from both natural processes and human activities. ); and biological properties (soil enzymes, microorganisms and their activities, etc.). It is so much soil that it doesn’t go unnoticed. These impacts include compaction, loss of soil structure, nutrient degradation, and soil salinity. As previously frozen sub-surface layers of permafrost melt, soils easily fall apart and get washed off by more intense rainfall and fierce waves that batter the coast cut deeper into the mainland. Fertile soil is being lost around the world at a rate of 24bn tonnes a year. In the spring of 2015, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs warned England’s citizens about “blood rain”- rain mixed with red sand and light dirt particles carried by wind more than 2,000 miles from Sahara Desert to England. Author has 1.2K answers and 506K answer views. Quick Navigation for The Causes and Effects of Soil Erosion,  http://www.fao.org/soils-portal/soil-degradation-restoration/cost-of-soil-erosion/en/. The United States is losing soil 10 times faster -- and China and India are losing soil 30 to 40 times faster -- than the natural replenishment rate. Agricultural land is among the most affected lands by erosion worldwide. Even the costs of losing such an important resource are incredibly high. Many construction projects begin by completely removing vegetation, which affects the ability of soils to absorb water, often leaving soils exposed and vulnerable for many years before the project is finished. Erosion promotes critical losses of water, nutrients, soil organic matter and soil biota, harming forests, rangeland and natural ecosystems. Higher surface runoff then swells water streams to bigger size and floods become more frequent and extensive even in areas where they haven’t occurred ever before. Soil contamination of heavy metals shortens microbial activities and lowers its fertility. Soil degradation, characterized by decline in quality and decrease in ecosystem goods and services, is a major constraint to achieving the required increase in agricultural production. Some of the world’s largest mines cut as deep as 0.75 miles into the earth’s surface and spread over an area of more than 2,000 acres . 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