Erosion is the displacement of solids (soil, mud, rock and other particles) by the agents of wind, water or ice, by downward or down-slope movement in response to gravity or by living organisms (in the case of bioerosion). Erosion is distinguished from weathering, which is the decomposition of rock and particles through processes where no movement is involved, although the two processes may be concurrent.
Erosion is an intrinsic natural process but in many places it is increased by human land use. Poor land use practices include deforestation, overgrazing, unmanaged construction activity and road or trail building. However, improved land use practices can limit erosion, using techniques like terrace-building and tree planting.
A certain amount of erosion is natural and, in fact, healthy for the ecosystem. For example, gravels continually move downstream in watercourses. Excessive erosion, however, can cause problems, such as receiving water sedimentation, ecosystem damage (including dead fish) and outright loss of soil.
What causes erosion to be severe in some areas and minor elsewhere is a combination of many factors, including the amount and intensity of precipitation, the texture of the soil, the gradient of the slope, ground cover (from vegetation, rocks, etc.) and land use. The first factor, rain, is the agent for erosion, but the degree of erosion is governed by other factors.
The first three factors can remain fairly constant over time. In general, given the same kind of vegetative cover, you expect areas with high-intensity precipitation, sandy or silty soils and steep slopes to be the most erosive. Soils with a greater proportion of clay that receive less intense precipitation and are on gentle slopes tend to erode less. But here, the impact of atmospheric sodium on erodibility of clay should be considered.
The factor that is most subject to change is the amount and type of ground cover. When fires burn an area or when vegetation is removed as part of timber operations or building a house or a road, the susceptibility of the soil to erosion is greatly increased.
Roads are especially likely to cause increased rates of erosion because, in addition to removing ground cover, they can significantly change drainage patterns. A road that has a lot of rock and one that is "hydrologically invisible" (that gets the water off the road as quickly as possible, mimicking natural drainage patterns) has the best chance of not causing increased erosion.
Understandably, many human activities remove vegetation from an area, making the soil easily eroded. Logging and heavy grazing can reduce vegetation enough to increase erosion. Changes in the kind of vegetation in an area can also effect erosion rates. Different kinds of vegetation effect infiltration rates of rain into the soil. Forested areas have higher infiltration rates, so precipitation will result in less surface runoff, which erodes. Instead much of the water will go in subsurface flows, which are generally less erosive. Leaf litter and low shrubs are an important part of the high infiltration rates of forested systems, the removal of which can increase erosion rates. Leaf litter also shelters the soil from the impact of falling raindrops, which is a significant agent of erosion. Vegetation can also change the speed of surface runoff flows, so grasses and shrubs can also be instrumental in this aspect.
One of the main causes of erosive soil loss in the year 2006 is the result of slash and burn treatment of tropical forests. When the total ground surface is stripped of vegetation and then seared of all living organisms, the upper soils are vulnerable to both wind and water erosion. In a number of regions of the earth, entire sectors of a country have been rendered unproductive. For example, on the Madagascar high central plateau, comprising approximately ten percent of that country's land area, virtually the entire landscape is sterile of vegetation, with gully erosive furrows typically in excess of 50 meters deep and one kilometer wide. Shifting cultivation is a farming system which sometimes incorporates the slash and burn method in some regions of the world.
When land is overused by animal activities (including humans), there can be mechanical erosion and also removal of vegetation leading to erosion. In the case of the animal kingdom, this effect would become material primarily with very large animal herds stampeding such as the Blue Wildebeast on the Serengeti plain. Even in this case there are broader material benefits to the ecosystem, such as continuing the survival of grasslands, that are indigenous to this region. This effect may be viewed as anomalous or a problem only when there is a significant imbalance or overpopulation of one species.
In the case of human use, the effects are also generally linked to overpopulation. For when large numbers of hikers use trails or extensive off road vehicle use occurs, erosive effects often follow, arising from vegetation removal and furrowing of foot traffic and off road vehicle tires. These effects can also accumulate from a variety of outdoor human activities, again simply arising from too many people using a finite land resource.
One of the most serious and long-running water erosion problems worldwide is in the People's Republic of China, on the middle reaches of the Yellow River and the upper reaches of the Yangtze River. From the Yellow River, over 1.6 billion tons of sediment flow each year into the ocean. The sediment originates primarily from water erosion in the Loess Plateau region of northwest China.
You could get more information from the link below...