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Soil Erosion Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

When something erodes, it wears away. In this lesson, you'll learn what causes soil to erode, what soil erosion looks like, and what can be done to control it.

What is Soil Erosion

Farmer Ted is worried. It's been raining for days at his farm and he's worried about soil erosion. Now that the rain has stopped, it's time for Farmer Ted to go out to his fields and look for damage.

When something erodes, it wears away. So, soil erosion is when dirt or soil wears or washes away, exposing the ground underneath.

Soil erosion happens in all natural environments
soil erosion

Erosion happens in all natural environments, but it can be particularly troubling for farmers because soil erosion strips away the fertile topsoil that plants like to grow in.

How Does Soil Erosion Happen?

Water is one of the main causes of soil erosion, so the heavy rain that has been falling over the past week has Farmer Ted worried. Raindrops loosen the bonds that hold soil together. If rain is heavy, the water pools on the ground and starts to flow, carrying the loosened soil with it.

Rill Erosion

Farmer Ted hops on his tractor to inspect his fields. In the first field, he notices a rill, which is a channel carved into the field that looks like a dry stream. Rill erosion is a type of soil erosion that happens when rain doesn't soak into the soil and instead, flows in a path along the surface. As the water flows, it carves out a channel or rill.

Rill erosion in a field
rill erosion

Farmer Ted makes a mental note to take care of this rill before it becomes a more advanced gully, which would carry even more soil away.

Sheet Erosion

Farmer Ted heads to his second field. He's worried about this field because it's built on a slope. Soil erosion is a problem on sloped land because gravity pulls loose soil downhill. When he looks at the field, he sees piles of soil and debris at the bottom of the field, which means sheet erosion. Sheet erosion is a type of soil erosion in which a large area of topsoil slides downhill as one whole sheet, kind of like a blanket falling off a bed.

Wind and Other Factors

Water is not the only cause of soil erosion. When soil is dry, it can be picked up and moved by the wind. If you've ever been to the beach on a windy day, you might have seen sand flying through the air. That is an example of erosion by the wind.

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