Agricultural soil erosion

Feb 5, 2024 | #Agrotechnology | 0 comments

Have you ever wondered why the top layer of the earth seems to fade over time? The answer lies in a natural phenomenon and, in many cases, accelerated by human activity: soil erosion.

What is soil erosion

Soil erosion consists of the degradation of the earth’s soil through the action of natural factors, such as wind or water, and by the action of man.

This phenomenon can have significant consequences on soil quality, affecting fertility and water retention capacity.

In addition, soil erosion can also lead to the degradation of ecosystems, loss of biodiversity, and sedimentation of nearby water bodies.

Types of erosion

There are several types of soil erosion, each under specific conditions and presenting distinctive characteristics.
Below, we discuss some of the most relevant:

Water Erosion

It is produced by the impact of raindrops and the flow of water on the soil surface. It can be divided into two subtypes:

  • Sheet erosion, which is a uniform loss of a thin layer of soil.
  • Erosion in furrows, where deeper channels form.

Eolic erosion

Caused by wind carrying soil particles. This type of erosion is more common in arid or semi-arid areas, where vegetation is sparse and the top layer of soil is more susceptible to being displaced by the wind.

Glacial Erosion

Glaciers, moving masses of ice, can also contribute to soil erosion. As they move, glaciers can tear away fragments of rock and soil, modifying the landscape in their wake.

Gravitational Erosion

This type of erosion involves the descent of loose materials down a slope due to gravity. Landslides, rock falls, and avalanches are examples of processes associated with this type of erosion.

Biological Erosion

Biological activities, such as plant roots and the action of microorganisms, can also contribute to soil erosion. Although it is usually a slower process, in the long term it can have significant impacts.

Anthropogenic Erosion

Human activity, such as deforestation, intensive agriculture and construction, can dramatically accelerate soil erosion. The removal of vegetation cover and the alteration of the landscape increases the vulnerability of the soil to water and wind erosion.

Soil phases: erosion process

The soil erosion process consists of various phases that illustrate how this phenomenon develops and progresses.

erosion process

1) Detachment

The first phase involves the separation of individual soil particles from the surface layer. This can occur due to the impact of raindrops, the action of wind, biological activity or gravitational influence. At this stage, loose particles are prone to being carried away by erosive agents.

2) Transportation

When the soil particles break away, the transport phase begins. Rainwater, wind, glaciers or other transport agents carry loose particles with them to new locations. The speed and distance of transport depend on the intensity of the erosive agent involved.

3) Deposit

When the speed of the transport agent decreases, whether due to decreased rainfall, loss of wind power, or melting of a glacier, soil particles are deposited in a new location. This sedimentation process can occur in rivers, lakes, deltas or other areas where water or wind speed is reduced.

Erosive agents

Erosive agents are the elements responsible for triggering the soil erosion process. Here, we will detail the main types of erosive agents, highlighting their characteristics and modes of action:

  • Water:
    • Rain : Raindrops can hit the soil surface, loosening particles and creating ruts in the top layer.
    • Surface runoff: Water that accumulates in excess can form currents that carry soil particles, causing water erosion.
  • Wind:
    • Wind lifts and transports soil particles, especially in areas with little vegetation that does not retain soil.
  • Glaciers:
    • The movement of glaciers drags rocks and soil with them, modifying the landscape as they advance.
  • Gravity:
    • The force of gravity causes the downward movement of loose material, leading to landslides and rockfalls.
  • Biological Activity:
    • Plant roots: Roots can destabilize the topsoil layer, especially under conditions of deforestation or ecosystem degradation.
    • Microorganisms: Some organisms, such as bacteria and fungi, can contribute to soil decomposition and erosion over time.
  • Human activity:
    • Deforestation: The massive removal of trees reduces the soil’s ability to retain water and increases its vulnerability to erosion.
    • Intensive agriculture: Agricultural practices such as excessive plowing and lack of vegetation cover increase soil susceptibility to erosion.
    • Construction: Alteration of the urban landscape can trigger soil erosion, especially when natural vegetation is removed.

How to prevent erosion with geospatial analysis

Soil conservation and erosion prevention are two important aspects of maintaining the health of our ecosystems.

In this context, geospatial analysis is a useful tool, providing detailed information about the terrain and allowing more effective soil management strategies.

Using technologies such as satellite images and drones, geospatial analysis makes it possible to identify areas prone to erosion. Detailed topographic data and elevation models reveal terrain features that can increase the risk of erosion, such as steep slopes or lack of vegetation cover.

Additionally, geospatial analysis makes it easier to track changes in land use, such as deforestation or agricultural expansion. This constant monitoring helps anticipate and address practices that could increase soil vulnerability to erosion.

Another relevant aspect is the planning of the vegetation coverage. Using data on vegetation types, their health and distribution, geospatial analysis helps design effective planting and vegetation cover restoration strategies. Vegetation acts as a natural barrier against erosion by stabilizing the soil with its roots.

In the area of ​​water management, geospatial analysis makes it possible to evaluate runoff patterns and direct water management more efficiently. Building terraces, ditches and reservoirs in strategic areas can reduce water flow and minimize the risk of erosion.

Additionally, by analyzing data on agricultural practices, such as crop types and farming methods, more sustainable approaches can be identified. Geospatial analysis can be guided by crop rotation, use of cover crops, and soil conservation techniques.

Finally, through visual representations and maps, geospatial analysis facilitates education and awareness about soil erosion. Data visualization can be a powerful tool for communicating the importance of sustainable practices and soil preservation.

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