Erosion in Australia

Water erosion on Uluru

Erosion is the wearing away of soil and rocks.It means that the topsoil is removed from the land.

Topsoil is the part of the ground that contains the most nutrients and is the most fertile part of the land for growing plants. It takes a long time to develop, so is a valuable resource. 

There are several types of soil erosion.

Sheet and rill erosion occurs on sloping land with little ground cover. When it rains water runs down the hill, and without plants to hold the soil in place, the flowing water washes the soil away.
Sheet erosion is when the water removes even layers of soil.
Rill erosion is when the water makes channels up to 30 cm deep.

Gully erosion is when water makes a deep channel that washes away soil when it rains. Each time it rains, the channels get deeper as more soil is removed. The soil can wash away into creeks and streams and block the water flow and discolour the water, or damage roads. The loss of topsoil reduces the amount of area available for farming.

Mass movement is when the erosion is helped by gravity, including landslides and avalanches. Mass movement not only removes a great deal of earth and rocks, it can destroy houses and farmland.

Wind erosion is when the wind lifts and removes topsoil. In dry areas in particular, soil that is not kept in place by plants is easily removed by the wind. Where crops have been grown repeatedly without giving the land a rest, the soil becomes less bound together and easily breaks down and is removed. Where animals have grazed too much or have trampled the earth hard, the plants are no longer holding the soil together, and it can be removed by the wind. The wind dumps the soil elsewhere, and can clog other farmland and roads.

Wind and water erosion is not confined to farmlands.

The coastline of Australia shows the effects of wind and waves on the rocks.
Inland, in the dry centre of Australia, the action of wind and water can be seen in the land formations.

How can erosion be controlled?
Farming methods used should be suited to the conditions in Australia. Settlers brought European farming methods when they came to Australia, and they did not suit the land. Crops need to be rotated around fields so that the soil is less disturbed by constant ploughing. Stubble left in the fields, particularly canola stubble, helps prevent wind erosion and are useful as grazing land. The numbers of stock on the land should be enough so they do not over graze the land, but are spread evenly over the whole area.

Where there is bare land suffering water runoff, plants should be planted to hold the soil and keep it from being washed away.

 Soil degradation is the term used to cover the damage that occurs to soil. Soil erosion is just one of those problems.
Find out about other kinds of soil degradation

Find out more about the different kinds of erosion and ways of reducing it:

If you use any of this information in your own work acknowledge this source in your bibliography like this:
Sydenham, S. & Thomas, R. Soil Erosion [Online] (2001)

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