Soil Erosion

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Soil Erosion Definition

“Soil erosion is the natural process in which the topsoil of a field is carried away by physical sources such as wind and water.”

Soil Erosion

What is Soil Erosion?

In this process, the soil particles are loosened or washed away in the valleys, oceans, rivers, streams or far away lands. This has been worsening due to human activities such as agriculture and deforestation.

Soil erosion is a continuous process that occurs either slowly or at an alarming rate. It results in a continuous loss of topsoil, ecological degradation, soil collapse, etc.

Let us have a detailed look at the causes, effects and prevention of soil erosion.

Also Read: What is Soil?

Cause of Soil Erosion

Following are the important causes of soil erosion:

Rainfall and Flooding

Higher intensity of rainstorms is the main cause of soil erosion. Four types of soil erosion are caused by rainfall:

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

The raindrops disperse the soil, which is then washed away into the nearby streams and rivers. Regions with very heavy and frequent rainfall face a large amount of soil loss. The flowing water during floods also erodes a lot of soil by creating potholes, rock-cut basins, etc.


The farming practices are the major cause of soil erosion. The agricultural activities disturb the ground. The trees are cleared and the land is ploughed to sow new seeds. Since most of the crops are grown during the spring season, the land lies fallow during winters. Most of the soil is eroded during winters.

Also, the tyres of tractors make grooves on the land, making a natural pathway for water. Fine soil particles are eroded by wind.


The grazing animals feed on the grasses and remove the vegetation from the land. Their hooves churn up the soil. They also pull out plants by their roots. This loosens the soil and makes it more prone to erosion.

Logging and Mining

A large number of trees are cut down to carry out the logging process. Trees hold the soil firmly. The canopy of the trees protects the soil from heavy rainfall. The leaf litter that protects the soil from erosion, is also lost during logging.

Mining activities also disturb the land and leave the soil more prone to erosion.


The construction of roads and buildings exposes the soil to erosion. The forests and grasslands are cleared for construction purposes, which exposes the soil making it vulnerable to erosion.

Rivers and Streams

The flowing rivers and streams carry away the soil particles leading to a V-shaped erosion activity.

Heavy Winds

During dry weather or in the semi-arid regions, the minute soil particles are carried away by the wind to faraway lands. This degrades the soil and results in desertification.

Also Read: Types of Pollution

Effects of Soil Erosion

The major effects of soil erosion include:

Loss of Arable Land

Soil erosion removes the top fertile layer of the soil. This layer is rich in the essential nutrients required by the plants and the soil. The degraded soil does not support crop production and leads to low crop productivity.

Clogging of Waterways

The agricultural soil contains pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers, and several other chemicals. This pollutes the water bodies where the soil flows.

The sediments accumulate in the water and raise the water levels resulting in flooding.

Air Pollution

The dust particles merge in the air, resulting in air pollution. Some of the toxic substances such as pesticides and petroleum can be extremely hazardous when inhaled. The dust plumes from the arid and semi-arid regions cause widespread pollution when the winds move.


Soil erosion is a major factor for desertification. It transforms the habitable regions into deserts. Deforestation and destructive use of land worsens the situation. This also leads to loss of biodiversity, degradation of the soil, and alteration in the ecosystem.

Destruction of Infrastructure

The accumulation of soil sediments in dams and along the banks can reduce their efficiency. Thus, it affects infrastructural projects such as dams, embankments, and drainage.

Also Read: Difference between erosion and weathering

Soil Erosion Prevention

Soil erosion is a serious environmental issue. Steps should be taken to curb this problem. Following are some of the methods of soil erosion prevention:

  1. Plant trees on barren lands to limit erosion of soil.
  2. Add mulch and rocks to prevent the plants and grass underneath to prevent soil erosion.
  3. Mulch matting can be used to reduce erosion on slopes.
  4. Put a series of fibre logs to prevent any water or soil from washing away.
  5. A wall at the base of the slope can help in preventing the soil from eroding.
  6. Every household should have a proper drainage system so that water flows down into proper water collecting systems.

Key Points of Soil Erosion

  • It is the natural process of wearing away topsoil, but human activities have accelerated the process.
  • It is usually caused due to the removal of vegetation, or any activity that renders the ground dry.
  • Farming, grazing, mining, construction and recreational activities are some of the causes of soil erosion.
  • The effects of soil erosion are not just land degradation. It has led to a drastic increase in pollution and sedimentation in rivers that clogs the water bodies resulting in a decline in the population of aquatic organisms.
  • Degraded lands lose the water holding capacity resulting in floods.

The health of the soil is of utmost importance to the farmers and the population that depends upon agriculture for food and employment. There are several challenges to resist soil erosion, but there are solutions to prevent it as well.

Also Read: Deforestation

To know more about soil erosion, its definition, causes, effects and prevention measures, keep visiting the BYJU’S website or download the BYJU’S app for further reference.

Frequently Asked Questions


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.

Explain the means of preventing soil erosion.

The removal and transportation of the top layer of soil from its original position to another place, under the effect of strong winds and fast running rainwater is called soil erosion. Soil erosion can be prevented by :

  1. Intensive cropping
  2. Sowing grasses and planting xerophytes.
  3. Terrace farming.
  4. Contour bunding.

What is topsoil?

Top soil is the upper fertile biologically active layer of soil which is rich in minerals, organic matter, and microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, earthworms and other animals).

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