Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

People Cause More Soil Erosion Than All Natural Processes

Date:
November 4, 2004
Source:
University Of Michigan
Summary:
Human activity causes 10 times more erosion of continental surfaces than all natural processes combined, an analysis by a University of Michigan geologist shows.

Soil and rock particles derived from the glacial, riverine, and agricultural erosion of east-central North America enter the Gulf of Mexico as muddy water along the delta of the Mississippi River.
Credit: Image courtesy of 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."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University Of Michigan. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University Of Michigan. "People Cause More Soil Erosion Than All Natural Processes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 November 2004. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041103234736.htm>.
University Of Michigan. (2004, November 4). People Cause More Soil Erosion Than All Natural Processes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 23, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041103234736.htm
University Of Michigan. "People Cause More Soil Erosion Than All Natural Processes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2004/11/041103234736.htm (accessed July 23, 2014).

Share This




More Earth & Climate News

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

Observation Boat to Protect Cetaceans During Ship Transfer

AFP (July 22, 2014) As part of the 14-ship convoy that will accompany the Costa Concordia from the port of Giglio to the port of Genoa, there will be a boat carrying experts to look out for dolphins and whales from crossing the path of the Concordia. Duration: 01:02 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

New Orleans Plans to Recycle Cigarette Butts

AP (July 21, 2014) New Orleans is the first U.S. city to participate in a large-scale recycling effort for cigarette butts. The city is rolling out dozens of containers for smokers to use when they discard their butts. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

Shark Sightings a Big Catch for Cape Tourism

AP (July 21, 2014) A rise in shark sightings along the shores of Chatham, Massachusetts is driving a surge of eager vacationers to the beach town looking to catch a glimpse of a great white. (July 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

Spectacular Lightning Storm Hits London

AFP (July 19, 2014) A spectaCular lightning storm struck the UK overnight Friday. Images of lightning strikes over the Shard and Tower Bridge in central London. Duration: 00:23 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins