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Each year deserts consume an area the size of Belgium. Worldwide, farmers are losing 24 billion tonnes of topsoil each year. The effects of soil erosion include deteriorating the agricultural sector, flooding and impairing aquatic habitats.
Deteriorating the Agricultural Sector:
Soil erosion has arguably the greatest impact on the agricultural sector. The part which is removed during soil erosion is the topsoil. Topsoil contains the majority of the soil’s nutrients, organic matter and pesticides, so this would obviously pose a problem to farmers who rely on the soil for their yearly income. The soil which gets left behind lacks structure, it has a lower water-carrying capacity, different pH values and low nutrient levels. This also leaves the soil with a higher susceptibility to drought.
The effects of soil erosion does not allow there to be proper seeding. When plants do not grow, the farm loses its root system. The root system prevents the soil from being eroded as well as from getting dried up and being blown away because it creates a barrier between the soil, the sun and the wind. The entire agricultural sector relies on the soil being fertile enough to ensure plentiful, healthy crops, with the plants not growing it greatly deteriorates the entire division. Without crops growing properly farmers lose their source of income and the entire population suffers from a loss of food.
Flooding is a major issue in places where soil degradation is occurring. Flooding happens because the vegetative cover has been removed and therefore there is nothing to slow down the water flow to allow it to percolate and therefore water continues as runoff until it reaches a nearby valley and accumulates until it causes a flood.
Impairment of Aquatic Habitats:
The impairment of aquatic habitats affects everyone in the environment. Without the plants and algae growing, a chain reaction is created where in the end the humans at the top of the food chain suffer as well. When soil erosion occurs, the sediment particles usually find their way into local water bodies, when too much sediment finds its way into local rivers the aquatic animals are immediately affected. When the sediment enters the wetland it can actually fill it and destroy it; the sediment causes the water to lose their open water areas and become choked with aquatic vegetation. The eroded soil also smothers aquatic invertebrates and destroys the habitat necessary for their survival. These invertebrates also happen to be food for other fish which will lose their food source.
The sediments create a muddy cloud over the river which prevents sunlight from reaching the bottom of the river. This prevents the algae from completing photosynthesis therefore creating hypoxic conditions, as well as decreases the water’s nutrient levels. The muddy water creates a thick almost opaque cloud in the water which impairs the vision of fishes that rely on sight to find food. Another effect of the soil erosion is that once the sediment settles it can find its way onto fish eggs which can prevent them from hatching. This factor causes loss of spawning areas. The sediment suspended in the water column can coat the gills of fishes therefore impeding their oxygen uptake. All of these factors cause there to be a loss of biodiversity in and around the wetland.