Building a world of
resilient communities.

MAIN LIST

 

People cause more soil erosion than all natural processes

Contact: Nancy Ross-Flanigan
rossflan@umich.edu
734-647-1853
University of Michigan

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Human activity causes 10 times more erosion of continental surfaces than all natural processes combined, an analysis by a University of Michigan geologist shows.

People have been the main cause of worldwide erosion since early in the first millennium, said Bruce Wilkinson, a U-M professor of geological sciences. Wilkinson will present his findings Nov. 8 at a meeting of the Geological Society of America in Denver, Colo.

Many researchers have tried to assess the impact of human activity on soil loss, but most have only guessed at how erosion due to natural forces such as glaciers and rivers compares with that caused by human activity---mainly agriculture and construction, Wilkinson said. He used existing data on sedimentary rock distributions and abundances to calculate rates of natural erosion.

"If you ask how fast erosion takes place over geologic time---say over the last 500 million years---on average, you get about 60 feet every million years," Wilkinson said. In those parts of the United States where soil is being eroded by human agricultural activity, however, the rate averages around 1,500 feet per million years, and rates are even higher in other parts of the world. Natural processes operate over areas larger than those affected by agriculture and construction, but even taking that into account, "the bottom line is, we move about 10 times as much sediment as all natural processes put together," he said.

Because soil formation proceeds at about the same rate as natural erosion, Wilkinson's results mean that humans are stripping soil from the surface of the Earth far faster than nature can replace it.

"This situation is particularly critical," Wilkinson said, "because the Earth's human population is growing rapidly and because almost all potentially arable land is now under the plow."

###

For more information:
Bruce Wilkinson -- www.geo.lsa.umich.edu/dept/faculty/wilkinson/index.html
Geological Society of America -- www.geosociety.org/

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

Sign up for regular Resilience bulletins direct to your email.

Take action!  

Find out more about Community Resilience. See our COMMUNITIES page
Start your own projects. See our RESOURCES page.
Help build resilience. DONATE NOW.

 

This is a community site and the discussion is moderated. The rules in brief: no personal abuse and no climate denial. Complete Guidelines.


Urban Farming and Food Access Org Grows Hope and Food in Ypsilanti, Michigan

From its 1.4-acre site, the 501(c)3 organization Growing Hope operates hoop …

Alleycat Acres Puts New Twist on Community Gardens in Seattle

Alleycat Acres has survived the immense challenge of losing farms to …

Rural Sociology

For mutual interests to come to the fore, each city and each rural area …

Declaration of La Via Campesina Delegation to the 2016 World Social Forum

"We not only believe that another world is necessary, the members of La …

Watching the Watchers

The exercise is based on the notion that we could, if collectively we so …

Only Five Years in, Vermont Farm to Plate Strategic Plan Bears Fruit

The innovative and comprehensive Vermont Farm to Plate food system strategic …

What I Learned from my First Garden

This year, I started my first garden—a micro garden really.