Sometimes, erosion can be a good thing, like when it creates valleys and forms interesting landscapes. But when erosion happens too fast because of things like heavy rain or not taking care of the land properly, it can cause problems.
In this article we’ll talk about various types of soil erosion, types of soil pollution, what is soil conservation, what are the different methods of soil conservation, and importance of soil conservation.
Types of soil erosion
Recently, according to the Times Of India, in July 2023 the historic Galva Devi temple located in Kundanpur Teep, Bijnor district, has once again been impacted by the soil erosion caused by heavy rainfall and overflowing Ganges river.
There are several types of soil erosion, each caused by different natural processes and human activities. The several types of soil erosion are –
Sheet erosion is the uniform and gradual removal of a thin layer of soil from the land surface. It occurs when rainfall or other forms of water flow move across the land in a thin sheet, picking up soil particles and carrying them away.
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These channels, known as rills, are typically shallow and narrow, and they can develop on sloping terrain after heavy rainfall or other forms of water runoff.
Causes of Rill Erosion are –
- Heavy and intense rainfall events can generate a large volume of water in a short period which can easily erode the soil and create rills.
- Concentration of Flow – Rill erosion occurs when water flow becomes concentrated along certain paths, creating small channels in the soil.
- Link to Sheet Erosion – Rill erosion often occurs as a continuation from sheet erosion. As water begins to concentrate and flow more forcefully, it can carve out these small rills in the landscape.
Gully erosion is among the more severe types of soil erosion characterized by the formation of deep and well-defined channels in the landscape.
These channels, known as gullies, are larger and more prominent than rills, and they can significantly change the shape of the land.
Once a gully is created, it will continue to grow with headward erosion or even side wall sinking unless and until appropriate measures are taken to stop the disturbance.
Causes Of Gully Erosion are –
- Gully can develop relatively quickly, especially during heavy rainfall events.
- Gullies are more likely to form on steep slopes where gravity increases the movement of water.
- Poor drainage with increased water collection, leads to higher water flow velocities which creates gullies.
- Human activities like construction, logging, and farming can disturb the soil and develop gullies.
Among the types of soil erosion, splash erosion is a type of soil erosion that occurs when raindrops hit the exposed soil surface and displace small soil particles, causing them to bounce upward and move away from their original location.
Stream Bank Erosion
Stream bank erosion refers to the process by which the soil and land along the banks of a stream or river are worn away and carried downstream by the force of flowing water.
The main causes of the stream bank erosion are vegetation destruction on river banks (which is due to cleaning, farming, overgrazing, fire or transportation along the banks) and the removal of sand and stones.
Wind erosion is one of the natural types of soil erosion where the wind carries away loose soil particles from the land’s surface, transporting them over different distances and causing land degradation.
It is particularly common in arid and semi-arid regions with less vegetation cover and dry soil. Strong winds that pass over sandy soils that were greatly farmed during droughts are most likely to cause it to happen.
Causes Of Wind Erosion are –
- Insufficient topsoil
- Lack of vegetation which leaves the soil exposed to the wind.
- Dry conditions
- Deforestation, which leaves the soil unprotected.
Mass Movement Erosion
Mass movement erosion, also known as mass wasting or slope failure, one of the significant types of soil erosion, refers to the downslope movement of rock, soil, and debris under the influence of gravity.
It is a natural geological process that can be caused by various factors, including geological, environmental, and human-induced conditions such as lack of vegetation, steeper slopes, earthquakes, construction, mining, excavation, etc.
Glacial erosion is a geological process caused by the movement of glaciers, large masses of ice, across the land’s surface.
Glaciers move under the force of gravity, flowing like a slow-moving ice rivers. As glaciers advance, they push and drag rocks, sediments, and debris along their paths. Hence, causing Glacier erosion.
Tunnel erosion, also known as subsurface erosion, is a specific type of erosion that occurs below the soil surface.
It involves the development of underground channels through which water flows, carrying soil particles away and causing the collapse of the ground above.
Tunnel erosion can be caused by factors like heavy rainfall or the presence of natural channels.
Anthropogenic erosion refers to the erosion caused by human activities. These activities can disturb the natural balance of soil, resulting in increased soil loss, degradation of land, and environmental impacts.
Causes Of Anthropogenic erosion are –
- One of the types of soil erosion, includes activities such as deforestation, which exposes the soil to wind and water erosion.
- Intensive plowing, mono-cropping, and overgrazing can degrade soil and increase erosion risk.
- Urbanization, construction, and mining can disturb natural drainage patterns which leads to erosion.
- Poor implementation of erosion control techniques, such as terracing, and cover cropping can also lead to soil erosion.
Soil pollution, also known as soil contamination, is the degradation of soil quality due to the presence of harmful substances in the soil. It is caused by many activities, including industrial wastes, agricultural practices, improper waste disposal, mining, and the use of pesticides and fertilizers.
These toxic substances can be natural or man-made and have terrible effects on soil, and plant growth.
As reported by The Economics Times, on 17th of June, 2022, China prohibited new oil refining, coking, steel, cement, and glass projects in targeted areas, aiming to control environmental risks through zoning and reduce heavy industries in polluted zones, river basins, and urban areas.
Common contaminants that contribute to soil pollution are –
- Heavy metals (like mercury, cadmium, and lead).
- Petroleum hydrocarbons (Gasoline, crude oil, and Tar)
- Pesticides (Herbicides, Insecticides, and Fungicides)
- Solvents (Benzene, Xylene, Acetone, and Chloroform)
- Radioactive materials (Uranium, Plutonium, and Radioactive Waste)
Types Of Soil Pollution
Soil pollution can be broadly divided into two main types of soil pollution –
- Naturally occurring Soil Pollution
- Anthropogenic Soil Pollution (caused by humans)
Naturally Occurring Soil Pollution
Naturally occurring soil pollution refers to the contamination of soil by natural processes or substances. Certain harmful substances build up in soils naturally as the atmosphere deposits these substances irregularly.
Naturally occurring soil pollution is caused by –
- Volcanic Ash and Lava Deposits – Volcanic activity can introduce new minerals and elements to the soil through ash and
- Saline and Alkaline Soils – In arid and semi-arid regions, natural processes like evaporation can lead to the collection of salts and alkaline substances in the soil resulting in soil pollution.
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) – Certain plants and microorganisms release volatile organic compounds into the soil through natural processes.
- Biochemical Interactions – Biological activities, such as the decay of organic matter by microorganisms, can release many compounds into the soil, causing soil pollution.
- Geological formations and mineral deposits can contribute to the presence of certain elements in the soil.
Anthropogenic Soil Pollution (caused by humans)
Anthropogenic soil pollution refers to the contamination of soil from human activities which introduces pollutants into the soil.
These pollutants can come from industrial processes, agricultural practices, waste disposal, mining, and other human-related sources. Majority of the soil pollution is caused by human activities.
Anthropogenic soil pollution is caused by –
- Industrial Activities – Factories and industrial processes can release a range of chemicals and pollutants into the soil, including heavy metals, solvents, pesticides, and hazardous waste.
- Agricultural Practices – The use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides in agriculture can lead to soil contamination.
- Mining and Extractive Industries – Mining operations can release heavy metals, minerals, through runoff, leakage from tailings ponds, and improper waste disposal.
- Waste Disposal and Landfills – Improper disposal of solid waste and hazardous materials in landfills can contaminate soil and groundwater.
- Oil Spills – Accidental oil spills, leakage from storage tanks, and improper disposal of oil-based products can result in soil contamination.
- Deforestation and Land Degradation – Clearing land for agriculture, logging, and other purposes can lead to soil erosion and degradation.
- Nuclear Accidents and Radioactive Waste – Accidents at nuclear power plants and improper disposal of radioactive waste can result in the release of radioactive substances into the soil.
- Poor sanitation practices and inadequate sewage treatment can lead to the contamination of soil with pathogens and pollutants.
Soil Pollution Images
What Is Soil Conservation
Soil conservation is a combination of the strategies, practices, and efforts to prevent or reduce soil erosion, degradation, and loss.
The goal of soil conservation is to stop the deterioration of the soil’s topmost layer and maintain or improve soil quality, fertility, and productivity.
There are many methods of soil conservation which can be practiced in order to prevent soil from any degradation. Different soil conservation methods are performed by people which are discussed below.
Methods Of Soil Conservation
Different methods of soil conservation are –
Terrace farming is an effective method of soil conservation that involves constructing terraces on slopes helps slow down water runoff, reducing erosion and allowing water to infiltrate the soil.
Each terrace is taller than the previous one. Terraces create flat planting areas and help conserve soil moisture.
Contour Ploughing is a method of soil conservation where plowing and planting along the contour lines of a slope helps minimize water flow and erosion. Contour farming reduces the speed of water runoff and helps retain soil and nutrients.
Crop yields can increase by 10% up to 50% in contour ploughing.
Crop rotation as a method of soil conservation involves growing different crops in a specific sequence on the same piece of land over time.
It is a fundamental strategy for maintaining soil health, preventing pest and disease spreading, optimizing nutrient cycling, and promoting long-term agricultural productivity.
Salinity management helps to prevent or reduce the collection of salts in the soil, which can negatively impact plant growth, soil structure, and land productivity. When the water is evaporated, the salt is left behind.
The main ions responsible for soil salinization are –
- Sodium (Na+)
- Chloride (Cl-)
- Calcium (Ca2+)
- Potassium (K+)
- Magnesium (Mg2+)
- Bicarbonate (HCO3-)
Soil Testing and Nutrient Management
Regular soil testing helps determine nutrient levels and allows for precise application of fertilizers, minimizing excess nutrient runoff.
Mineralization is the process by which organic matter, like plant residues, and animal waste, is decomposed by microorganisms into inorganic mineral nutrients.
This method of soil conservation involves the intricate enzymatic degradation of organic matter by microorganisms, leading to the release of vital inorganic mineral nutrients.
As organic compounds break down, nitrogen, phosphorus, sulfur, and trace elements are released, thus enriching the soil with vital components.
Windbreaks and Shelterbelts
Windbreaks and shelterbelts are the planting arrangements of trees, or shrubs to provide protection from wind, reduce soil erosion, and improve the overall environmental conditions of an area.
Windbreaks are appropriately thick rows of trees that are placed on the windward side of an agricultural area that is vulnerable to wind erosion.
Avoiding plowing or tilling the soil reduces soil disturbance, maintains soil structure, and minimizes erosion. In this method of soil conservation seeds are planted directly into the undisturbed soil.
In this method of soil conservation, organic or synthetic compost or manure is applied to the soil surface. Mulching helps prevent soil erosion, conserves moisture, and balances soil temperature.
Rotational grazing, also known as managed grazing, is a method of managing livestock in a way that promotes sustainable land use, improves pasture health, and prevents overgrazing.
In rotational grazing, animals are moved between different grazing areas or paddocks, allowing vegetation in previously grazed areas to recover before they are grazed again.
Importance Of Soil Conservation
Soil conservation is of great importance for its impacts on ecosystems, agriculture, food security, water quality, climate resilience, and overall environmental sustainability.
Here are some key reasons for importance of soil conservation –
- Erosion causes topsoil loss and reduces productivity. Methods of soil conservation like contour farming and windbreaks prevent erosion.
- The importance of soil conservation practices lies in its role as a protection against soil degradation, erosion, and nutrient depletion.
- Soil conservation maintains soil nutrients and organic matter, providing essential nutrients for crops.
- The fertility of the land is crucial for our survival, soil conservation ensures a stable supply of food for current and future generations.
- Healthy soils act as carbon sinks, absorbing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.
- Soil conservation enhances agricultural productivity, reduces the need for costly inputs like fertilizers, and improves land value.
Types of soil erosion and soil pollution are critical issues that threaten agricultural productivity and ecosystem stability. Urgent action is needed to implement erosion and pollution control measures such as terracing, and cover cropping. By protecting our soils from such threats, we protect food security, water resources, and realize the importance of soil conservation.
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