all of the the topsoil in our world has been eroded within the last 150 years through human activities such as deforestation, overgrazing and unsustainable agricultural methods¹. Because healthy soil supports life on Earth, much of the life on our planet will be negatively impacted, including ourselves, if we continue to lose more topsoil. Throughout human history, heavy soil erosion has even destroyed entire civilizations².
In this article, we will discuss some of the most important effects of how soil erosion negatively impacts the biodiversity of our planet.
- Longer ecosystem recovery time
If an ecosystem has been very degraded due to soil erosion, it will take a very long time for its biodiversity to recover, if it even recovers in that area at all.
- Loss of topsoil and soil fertility, reduced native plant species
When the soil has been very disturbed, weedy plant species often come in to colonize the disturbed soil. While this can be a good situation because the roots of the weedy plants can help to hold the soil in place and prevent further erosion, the weedy plant species can also consist of exotic invasive species that are able to colonize within the disturbed ecosystem. Such an “open door” opportunity for invasive species can eventually allow the invasive species to crowd out the native plant species that still exist in the ecosystem after the erosion disturbance.
In some cases, the eroded soil is so disturbed that the landscape becomes completely barren, and not much plant life will even grow there anymore. This barren landscape ultimately leads to a major decrease in ecosystem biodiversity for many organisms that can no longer live there.
- Increased risk of flooding
- Negative impacts on aquatic ecosystems and species
In addition to the increased sedimentation of waterways, the pollution of water bodies can occur when the soil that is eroded is carrying any pollutants such as agriculture chemicals. These pollutants can negatively impact aquatic ecosystems, as well as any organisms that rely on aquatic organisms for food.
- Increased risk of desertification
Solutions for reducing soil erosion throughout the world
- Promote Sustainable Agriculture and Sustainable Land Use. By using sustainable land use methods such as no-till farming and permaculture farming, healthy soil is maintained and the chances of soil erosion occurring are significantly reduced, if not entirely eliminated.
Responsible and sustainable livestock management and grazing can also lead to a significant reduction in soil erosion from these activities.
- Reduce Deforestation. By using sustainable forestry methods or reducing the overall rate of deforestation across the landscape, soil is much less likely to erode away because tree roots are very effective at holding soil in place.
- Preventing desert expansion. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund are working to preserve and restore those ecosystems that are at risk of desertification, such as through the creation of a protected forest network that integrates conservation and sustainable development to support the economic welfare of local communities¹.