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What is erosion?

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Quick Answer

Erosion is a natural process in which rocks or soil are moved from one location to another by wind or water. Material may move through erosion for distances ranging from a few feet to thousands of miles. Erosion often is most noticeable along shorelines, but it occurs in a variety of areas throughout the world.

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What is erosion?
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Erosion occurs naturally, but human activity has increased the incidence of erosion by 10 to 40 times globally as of 2014. Excessive erosion affects agriculture and the flow of bodies of water. It affects various ecosystems and can lead to the endangerment or extinction of species that lose habitat or food sources.

The condition of soil plays a role in the susceptibility of an area to erosion. When water can easily soak through soil, it is less likely to run off and take soil with it. The amount and condition of plants on the surface of soil also affect how easily erosion occurs. Grasses and other plants help slow water runoff and make it easier for water to permeate the soil. Climate also plays a role in erosion. Areas with a great deal of rain can experience significant runoff and resulting erosion. Very dry areas may have erosion from dry soils blowing away.

Various factors intensify and speed up erosion. Intensive farming, climate change, cutting down trees and construction of roads and buildings all affect erosion.

Learn more about Erosion & Weathering

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are types of wind erosion?

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    The three main types of wind erosion are suspension, saltation and creep. Suspension is the blowing of tiny particles into the air where they may be carried for long distances, saltation is the repeated lifting and dropping of slightly larger particles, and creep is the movement of particles too large to lift along the ground. All types only occur with relatively dry, loose soils that wind can break apart.

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  • Q:

    What are examples of wind erosion?

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    According to the CK-12 Foundation, the most common examples of wind erosion are rock formation and desert varnish. Wind erosion can also affect much smaller rocks and structures, as evidenced by the desert pavement in the Mojave Desert.

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  • Q:

    What are wind and water erosion not likely to affect?

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    Wind and water erosion are least likely to affect igneous sills and cooled lava flows. Limestone, basalt and quartzite are also unlikely to undergo erosion or weathering, as are sandstone and chert. Soil and soft rocks such as clays erode very quickly without protection.

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  • Q:

    What is chemical erosion?

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    Chemical erosion occurs when water transports dissolved minerals away from their source rocks. It follows chemical weathering, which results from the chemical alteration of rock by water. Chemical erosion is most common with limestone; slightly acidic rainwater dissolves calcium carbonate in the rock and redeposits it, sometimes far away, as in stalagmites and stalactites. Through oxidation, chemical erosion also occurs to some degree with unstable igneous minerals and iron-rich rocks.

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