Soil erosion has become a widespread problem around the world today. Within the last 150 years, we have lost about 50% of the topsoil on our planet . Soil erosion causes many problems, including a loss of topsoil and arable land, sedimentation and pollution in waterways, and an increased risk of flooding and landslides.
So how can we prevent this erosion around the world? The following list discusses methods that have been proven to dramatically reduce, and oftentimes prevent erosion from occurring in the first place.
One of the best ways that we can prevent erosion is to plant vegetation with deep roots that help to hold the soil in place. This is especially important in areas that are more vulnerable to erosion, such as along rivers, streams, and on hillsides.
Some of the best plants for erosion control are native plants with deep roots, such as native prairie grasses, wildflowers, and woody perennials, such as trees and shrubs. Typical lawn grasses tend to have very short roots, and therefore do not protect slopes from erosion nearly as well as native and woody perennial plants.
- Retaining walls and edging
The presence of retaining walls helps to hold the soil in place on slopes and are very effective at preventing erosion. Edging materials such as bricks or stones help to prevent the erosion of soil from a garden bed or within a landscape.
- Contour farming
Cultivating crops on slopes can be particularly challenging, and plowing on slopes can easily lead to soil erosion. However, there are several techniques for cultivating crops on slopes that prevent erosion. These include contour farming, where farmers plow and plant across a slope along its contour lines, and swalles on contour, which hold water high on the landscape and prevent erosion.
One permaculture farmer named Sepp Holzer has had a very successful ecologically-based farm for many years in the mountainous region of Austria through the use of swalles and terraces on steep slopes.
- No-till farming and gardening
By using different cultivation methods, such as sheet mulching for gardens, and no-till farming methods, the delicate structure of the soil can be protected and erosion is significantly reduced compared to tillage cultivation.
- Soil erosion blankets and fiber rolls
Soil erosion blankets and fiber rolls are designed to slow down surface water and prevent erosion on slopes after construction activities and for landscape rehabilitation.
These erosion prevention agents can be made with synthetic materials, such as polypropylene, or with natural materials, such as straw, coconut fiber, or jute . Other erosion control agents that are often used include hay bales, logs, and silt fences.
- Cover crops
Cover crops are not only a great way to help feed the soil (through the use of leguminous plants such as clovers) and to prevent weed growth in planting beds outside the growing season, they also serve to hold the soil in place when crops are not being grown .
By putting down mulch, you are covering the bare soil and keeping it from being washed and eroded away, as well as helping to retain soil moisture.
Wood mulch can be used in landscapes and gardens, and organic mulches like shredded leaves and straw can be used to protect and feed your garden soil in the fall and in the spring.
- Riprap, stones, and boulders
They can be used on moderate to low-grade slopes to control stormwater runoff and soil erosion. These erosion prevention agents are especially useful for stabilizing storm drainage ways .
- Reforestation, sustainable forest management, and the protection of vulnerable areas
It is important that we restore degraded ecosystems and protect others to ensure that there will be sufficient soil erosion protection present in natural ecosystems.
Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund are working to protect soil resources, forests, and other natural ecosystems in ways that help meet the needs of people in local communities .
- Sustainable grazing
The overgrazing of livestock can decrease groundcover, and can lead to soil compaction, and erosion through wind and rain.
Through the use of sustainable grazing and pasture management techniques, farmers can significantly reduce these risks, and science-based sustainable grazing practices are even being used today to restore various degraded landscapes [6,7].