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Soil Erosion, Causes, Effects, Types and Conservation

Soil erosion is a gradual natural process that occurs when the impact of water or wind detaches and removes soil particles, causing the soil to deteriorate. Around the world, surface runoff, soil erosion, and poor water quality have become major issues.

What is Soil Erosion?

Soil Erosion, also known as geological erosion, is a comprehensive natural process of separation and removal of loosened rock elements and soils by exogenetic processes without being hampered by human action. The natural geological process of denudation includes the gradual removal of soil, which is both ubiquitous and inevitable.

Soil erosion typically refers to accelerated erosion, also known as man-induced erosion, which is the increased rate of erosion produced by various land-use changes effected by man. The loosening and removal of topsoil fragments from the land is known as soil erosion. In nature, soil erosion may occur.

  • a slow process (or geological erosion) or
  • a fast process promoted by deforestation, floods, tornadoes, or other human activities.

Cause of Soil Erosion

The causes of soil erosion are as follows:

Rainfall and Flooding

Soil erosion is primarily caused by rainstorms that are more intense. Rainfall results in four different types of soil erosion:

  • Rill erosion
  • Gully erosion
  • Sheet erosion
  • Splash erosion

The soil is dispersed by the showers and subsequently washes into the neighboring rivers and streams. Heavy soil loss occurs in areas with frequent and intense rains. By forming potholes, rock-cut basins, and other features, the flowing water during floods also erodes a lot of soil.


Soil erosion is primarily brought on by agricultural operations. The land is disturbed by agricultural activity. To plant new seeds, the trees are cut down and the ground is tilled. The land is left fallow during the winter months because the majority of the crops are cultivated in the spring. During the winter, the majority of the soil erodes.

Tractor tires also leave grooves in the ground that operate as a natural waterway. The wind erodes fine soil particles.


The grazing animals consume the grasses and clear the land of its flora. The dirt is disturbed by their hooves. Additionally, they remove plants by the roots. The soil becomes more prone to erosion as a result of this loosening.

Logging and Mining

To carry out the logging procedure, several trees are felled. The soil is tightly held by trees. The soil is shielded from heavy rainfall by the forest cover. During logging, the leaf litter that shields the soil from erosion is also destroyed.


The soil is at risk of erosion due to the construction of buildings and roadways. For construction purposes, the forests and meadows are destroyed, exposing the soil and making it susceptible to erosion.

Rivers and Streams

Erosion activity takes the form of a V as a result of soil particles being carried away by rivers and streams in motion.

Heavy Winds

The tiny soil particles are swept away by the wind to distant countries during dry weather or in semi-arid zones. Desertification is the result of this soil degradation.

Effects of Soil Erosion

The major effects of soil erosion are mentioned below:

Loss of Arable Land

The top, fertile layer of the soil is removed by soil erosion. The vital nutrients that the soil and plants need are abundant in this stratum. Low crop productivity results from the damaged soil’s inability to support crop production.

Clogging of Waterways

Pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, and other chemicals can be found in agricultural soil. The waterways where the soil flows are contaminated as a result. Flooding is caused by the sediments that build up in the water and raise the water levels.

Air Pollution

Air pollution is caused by the dust particles combining in the atmosphere. When inhaled, some toxic compounds, like petroleum and insecticides, can be quite dangerous. When the winds blow, the dust plumes from the dry and semi-arid regions contaminate large areas.


One of the main causes of desertification is soil erosion. Deserts are created where there were once inhabited areas. The situation is made worse by deforestation and disruptive land use. Additionally, this results in a decrease in biodiversity, deterioration of the soil, and ecosystem changes.

Destruction of Infrastructure

The efficiency of dams and their banks may be decreased by the buildup of soil sediments. As a result, it has an impact on infrastructure initiatives like drainage, embankments, and dams.

Types of Soil Erosion

Based on the physical agent causing erosion, soil erosion is categorized. As a result, the numerous types of soil erosion go by the names:

  • Water Erosion
  • Wind Erosion

Water Erosion

One of the key mechanisms for removing soil particles is running water. Raindrops, waves, and ice can all cause soil erosion. Depending on the speed and type of erosion, soil erosion caused by water is referred to by a variety of terms.

Wind Erosion

In places where the indigenous flora has been removed, soil erosion caused by wind occurs more frequently. Such conditions are most common along the sandy edges of lakes, rivers, and arid, dry regions.

Soil Erosion Prevention

The major environmental problem of soil erosion. It is necessary to take action to solve this issue. Some strategies for preventing soil erosion include the ones listed below:

  • To prevent soil erosion on bare ground, plant trees.
  • To stop the grass and plants beneath from eroding, add mulch and rocks.
  • On slopes, mulch matting can help stop erosion.
  • To stop any soil or water from washing away, place a number of fiber logs.
  • The soil can be kept from eroding by building a wall at the bottom of the slope.

Conservation of Soil Erosion

The conservation of soil erosion is essential check some of the important conservation measures below:

  • Because the roots of plants hold soil particles together, it is crucial to maintain vegetation cover so that soil is not exposed to rain. Plants deflect rain and shield the ground from its direct effects.
  • Controlled cattle grazing is necessary.
  • The use of crop rotation and fallow land (area that hasn’t had anything planted in it for a while) should be encouraged.
  • To enhance soil organic matter, it is important to improve the vegetation and soil management.
  • Runoff water should be captured in the catchment for as long as feasible by keeping vegetation cover and building water storage dams in order to prevent stream bank erosion.
  • Protective vegetation along the beaches should be reestablished to stop or lessen coastal erosion.
  • Sandiest soils should maintain a plant cover of at least 30%.By placing mulch or stubble on the soil, you can limit the access of wind to the soil. The agricultural residue that is left over after harvesting is known as stubble.
  • By planting trees in the shape of a shelter belt, wind speed can be reduced or regulated.

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Soil Erosion FAQs

What is soil erosion?

Soil erosion is the process of wearing away of the surface layer, or topsoil, by the transportation of the surface particles under the mechanical actions of agents like wind, river, or even glaciers.

Does soil erosion affect the fertility of soil? How?

Yes, soil erosion removes the fertile top layer of the soil. This exposes the hard rocky lower layers which are less fertile and have less humus, thus affecting the fertility of the soil.

How can we prevent soil erosion in UPSC?

Afforestation and preservation of forests. Improved land use practice in farming, like ploughing along the contours, adequate use of manures and fertilizers, crop rotation etc.

What is the difference between soil erosion and soil degradation UPSC?

The soil formation process and erosion process go simultaneously and a balance between soil formation and soil erosion should be maintained. Degradation of soil occurs if a larger rate of the soil.

What are the 4 stages of soil erosion?

Splash erosion is generally seen as the first and least severe stage in the soil erosion process, which is followed by sheet erosion, then rill erosion and finally gully erosion


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