What Are the Effects of Erosion?

Mike Beauregard/CC-BY 2.0

The effects of erosion are varied, but the most obvious effect is the removal and destruction of land. Whether caused by wind or water, erosion leads to the displacement of soil, rocks, plants and seeds. These direct effects can often lead to broader consequences, including shrinking habitats for animals, accumulation of sediments, the removal of nutrients and other negative effects.

Erosion can have a number of causes, but the effects are usually the same. The most visually noticeable effect is soil erosion. The flow of wind or water can displace both topsoil and deeper dirt, which leads to shifting nutrients and resources. Topsoil is the most valuable, because it is nutrient-rich and feeds both seeds and plants. Erosion can remove this nutrient source.

Some effects from erosion are longer-term and harder to notice. The displacement of soil leads to the burying of seeds, which can delay or entirely block new plant growth. The loss of nutrient-rich topsoil also means less nutrients for plants that are already growing in the area.

Soil and sediment can also be washed into rivers and streams, which clog up the habitats of animals living nearby. Any pesticides or fertilizers used on the eroded soil makes matters worse, since they add pollutants to any place the eroded soil is deposited.