Soil erosion is usually caused by one of two environmental events — wind or water.
Wind erosion occurs in flat, bare areas where land may have recently been cultivated or in dry, sandy areas where soil might be loose or unstable. Wind erosion lifts soil particles into the air and deposits sediment over great distances. Preventing soil erosion due to wind involves stabilizing the soil, increasing its moisture content, and encouraging it to form clumps and clods, making it more difficult to move.
Soil erosion caused by water produces drastic changes across a landscape. As surface soil is washed away, vital nutrients go with it, compromising seed and plant growth. Cultivated land is susceptible to sheet erosion when the soil becomes overwhelmed by the rush of water and can’t absorb moisture or filter the water. Combatting erosion from water involves shoring up ditches and culverts, as well as creating dams to divert water’s progress or slow it down.
Causes of Soil Erosion
Rainfall and runoff contribute to soil erosion by carrying soil away and leaving behind sediment, pesticides, and fertilizers in its path. Wind does much the same, except dust clouds from suspension erosion can travel vast distances to blanket regions or smother crops with sediment.
Soil’s vulnerability to erosion might dictate how extensive damage might be but may also provide clues to preventing erosion or minimizing its impacts.
Slope length, land topography, and elevation contribute to soil erosion. Mudslides are a common sight when erosion from water sends sheets of topsoil to slide over itself and dislodge. Accumulating structures like sand dunes created from deposits left from wind erosion are likely to be lifted and carried into the air over and over during a wind event.
Vegetation, or the lack of it, plays a vital role in keeping soil stable and stationary. Roots from growing plants help bind soil together to make it harder to move. Trees can provide soil protection from the wind by making it more difficult for wind to reach the soil.
Effects of Soil Erosion
Economic impacts include crop loss, loss of soil fertility, and repairs or restorations to regions affected by soil erosion. Infrastructure might be weakened and roadways compromised due to accumulating sediment or runoff.
The environmental impacts of soil erosion can be seen in several influences. Wind erosion might strip the land of its topsoil surface and compromise substructures or rooting plants. Water erosion can stress rivers and streams and cause their protective banks to collapse under water’s driving force.
In regard to the impacts on human health, wind erosion can cause dust and dirt particles to be lifted into the air and possibly blown through windows, exacerbating allergies or upper-respiratory issues. Water erosion compromises agriculture and might result in low-quality produce. Both types of erosion wash away fertilizers and pesticides, carrying them over the land to deposit in rivers or streams or via wind, tainting air and water quality.
Today’s market offers many soil erosion control products in varying applications that can help minimize the impact. Whether their use is for road construction or to provide stabilization and filtration, there are products that can meet and exceed expectations.
Geotextiles help control erosion and come in several different shapes, types, and textures depending on the purpose it will serve. Geotextiles come in three main forms: woven, non-woven, and coir. These textiles are useful in the preventative practices of strip farming and terracing.
Woven geotextiles and fabrics are made from several different fiber types. Their tight construction stabilizes soil and are effective for erosion control. These geotextiles are often used in road construction and shoreline erosion control. Woven geotextiles are put to work in regions of heavy erosion, in riprap, and on embankments and slopes to minimize runoff and wall collapse.
Non-woven geotextiles are used for their smooth, felt-like surface that allows water to flow through the fabric while still filtering particles. Non-woven geotextiles are used in areas that require subsurface filtration and stabilization and provide adequate drainage. Non-woven geotextiles are often found in asphalt overlays and in the understructure of ponds.
Coir textiles are made from the husk of the coconut and provide a natural solution to erosion control. Coir textiles allow for deep rooting and provide nutrients to support the growth and development of vegetation. Coir supplies adequate aeration and drainage to allow for permanent vegetation to grow through. Coir works to hold seeds and saplings in place and is safe for wildlife. Coir needs no chemical treatment.
Coir is used to create check dams — small dam constructions across ditches or swales to slow the flow of water or divert its movement. It also adds to existing contours in order to build up the land or fill rills or gullies. Because coir’s life span is two to five years, it is used for short-term, temporary, and semi-permanent solutions. Coir comes in various forms in order to utilize it to its full potential.
- Coir wattles create a natural barrier to filter water. Coir wattles are used for their strength and filtration qualities and make wattles ideal for new construction sites to minimize impact. They’re also found in restoration projects to help prevent future damage.
- Coir erosion control blankets are used to increase soil stability. They are effective in decreasing the effects of wind and water erosion and are often used on slopes or areas sensitive to erosion. In climates where there is a lot of shade or cold temperatures increase seed germination time, coir erosion blankets are used to protect and nurture seeds.
- Coir logs work in the same way as wattles and blankets, but their shape makes them ideal for use in areas of erosion and runoff such as hills, banks, and shorelines.
More is understood today about how soil erosion impacts the environment, economy, and health. With this knowledge in mind, products on the market are designed to perform various functions in order to stem the tide and offset the wind.