Effect of Erosion and Deposition on Landforms

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: How a Landform Diagram Describes the Geological Progression of a Landscape

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:07 Breaking Down Earth's Surface
  • 0:47 Weathering and Landforms
  • 1:48 Types of Weathering
  • 3:46 Erosion and Deposition
  • 6:38 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Peter Jaeger

Pete currently teaches middle school Science, college level introductory Science, and has a master's degree in Environmental Education.

Expert Contributor
Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

Landforms are constantly being broken down and reformed by the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition. In this lesson, we explore chemical and physical weathering and how the face of the earth gets changed.

Breaking Down Earth's Surface

The earth's surface is constantly being broken down and reshaped. This can be accomplished by many factors, most notably the elements. This includes all factors of the climate, like wind, ice, rain, and snow. The earth also can be shaped by the action of waves, floods, and storms.

Humans also can affect the rate of weathering by contributing to the pollution that may cause landforms to break down, like acid rain. Over time, these changes can vastly change the landscape of the earth. This topic became a field trip for a boy and his father, and, inadvertently, his mother.

Weathering and Landforms

Pollution that leads to acid rain can affect the rate of weathering.
Pollution Acid Rain

At home, the boy, named Jonah, heard his dad talking about how he was upset at how the recent freeze had broken part of their cement driveway. His dad said that this was something they called weathering. Dad said that weathering was where rocks and minerals are broken down by the elements of nature into smaller pieces. Jonah thought that his dad was mistaken and he was talking about erosion, since he had been learning about landforms at school.

His dad asked him to come outside and see for himself. His dad asked him to share what he was learning in science class at school, and Jonah stated that a landform is a term that refers to any natural surface feature of the earth. Landforms include things like mountains and hills or valleys and canyons. 'That's right,' said his dad, and he told him that, like anything in nature, they are formed and change over time. Jonah wondered how things changed over time. Since he was such a young boy, he wondered if he had lived long enough to see changes in the earth.

Types of Weathering

As they went outside to look at the driveway, they talked about what kinds of things could weather rocks. They found that things like heat, cold, rain, climate, pollution, acid rain, water, ice, and waves all were elements that could break down rocks over time. Over time, water can get into a rock and, as it freezes, it can break the rock into pieces.

'Did you know that there are two kinds of weathering?' stated Dad as he picked up the piece of cement from the driveway, 'mechanical weathering and chemical weathering?' Mechanical weathering is when rocks are broken down by physical agents like ice, wind, or water, and chemical weathering is when rocks are broken down by chemical reactions.

Jonah asked, 'So let me get this straight: I understand that other things in nature can break down rocks, but how do chemicals cause rocks to break down, too?' His dad told him about pollution and the production of acid rain. He said that outer layers of rocks can get worn away by acids, and statues sometimes even are destroyed, too.

The youngest rock layers are deposited on the top of the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon Weathering

As time passes, mechanical and chemical forces can begin to break down landforms and cause them to change. Take the Grand Canyon, for example. All the layers that form the rock formations were deposited over many years, with the oldest layers near the bottom and the younger layers deposited on top of them. If viewed long ago, no one could see the different layers because they were all underground. Through the years, forces of nature, like water and wind, broke down and then wore a channel through the rock, exposing the layers underneath. Over time, more and more area was weathered by these physical agents, enlarging the canyon into what we see today. Another one is Devils Tower, which is thought to be the plug of an ancient volcano. It is all that is remaining of the volcano that weathered from around it.

Erosion and Deposition

Jonah also learned that there were two other forces that also affect and form landforms. The first one is called erosion. He found that erosion is the movement of broken-down, weathered rock from place to place. His Dad took him to the garden, where there were channels made in the soft earth.

'During erosion, the weathered rocks are carried from one place to another by wind, water, or gravity.' The other word he learned from his reading was deposition. Like making a deposit in his piggy bank, deposition means the laying down, or depositing, of broken rock, which reminded him of the time he got in trouble for burying his sister at the beach. That made him smile.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Additional Activities

Erosion and Deposition Model

In this activity, students will be studying factors that influence erosion and deposition by creating a model of it. To complete the activity you'll need two 2-liter plastic bottles, soil, water, leaves, and scissors.

Student Instructions:

In this activity, you'll be creating a model of erosion and deposition. To do this, follow the directions below, then answer the questions.

  1. Cut one side of each two liter bottle, so that the spout is intact, but you can fill the bottle with dirt and have an open side.
  2. Fill each container with dirt. Cover one container's dirt with leaves.
  3. Set each bottle at an angle, about 30 degrees by propping one end up.
  4. Next, place a tray under each bottle's spout.
  5. To collect your data, you can take photographs over time, or record your detailed observations. Start by making your first observation about how the soil looks in the bottle and what the tray looks like before doing anything else.
  6. Next, pour one cup water over each bottle. Record your observations again about what happened to the soil in the bottle and how the tray looks.
  7. Repeat step 6 four more times, recording your observations after each step.


  1. How did this model represent erosion and how did you know?
  2. How did this model represent deposition and how did you know?
  3. How did the presence of leaves on the surface of the soil change your results? Why do you think that happened?
  4. Based on your results for question 4, what do you think we could do to prevent erosion in our ecosystems?

Expected Results

Students should clearly see water causing a decrease in soil integrity in the bottles, which is an example of erosion, and increased soil in the tray, an example of deposition. The soil with leaves on top should resist erosion more, just as ecosystems with plant cover tend to be less vulnerable to erosion too. This is important because soil erosion can decrease ecosystem productivity and decrease the ability to grow crops for humans.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account