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Erosion is defined as the gradual removal and transportation of material from the Earth’s crust. This happens through natural processes, such as wind and rain.

If you look closely, you can see this happening all around you! It’s an important process that changes the landscape of the Earth over time. Yet, it also can affect humans, especially for farming and agriculture. 

What is Erosion?

Erosion is a natural process. It is where part of the Earth’s crust is moved from one place to another through forces such as wind and rain. However, it is a very slow process that happens over many, many years. 
Watch this video to learn more! 

For example, a river can create a large canyon over time by moving out rock and soil. The Grand Canyon is a great example of how erosion shapes the Earth’s landforms.
The Grand Canyon.

Erosion can create large landscape changes – like the Grand Canyon!

Factors Affecting Erosion

There are many factors that can affect how the Earth’s crust is eroded. One of the most important factors is the climate. When there is lots of wind and rain, soil and rocks are removed more easily from the landscape. 
Other important factors include the type of soil and rocks on the ground. But this isn’t all. It also includes the kinds of plants growing in the soil. Softer rocks and soil are easier to remove by natural forces. But, if there are lots of plants in the ground, it is more difficult for the soil to be eroded
Soybean Plants

Soil erodes without help from plants.

Types of Erosion

There are three major ways that the Earth can be eroded: wind, water, and ice (glacial erosion).
  • Wind – Over time, harsh winds on the Earth’s surface can remove pieces of rock and sand and transfer it to other places. 
  • Water – moving water can also remove rock, sand, or mud and deposit it in a different place. This is the most common type of erosion on Earth. 
  • Glacial – ice can also erode the Earth when it chips away at rocks. This happens through two main processes called plucking and abrasion. 

Erosion and Deposition 

Deposition is the last step of erosion. During deposition, the little pieces of sediment that the wind or water carries is dropped off at a certain location. Over time, deposition can change the landscape of the Earth by building up piles of rock and sand. 

Be Careful! – Weathering Vs. Erosion

Erosion and weathering are two processes that many students get mixed up. It’s important to remember that they are different. Erosion is when rock and soil are removed from one place and transferred to another. However, weathering does not involve movement – the rock breaks into smaller pieces and stays where it is. Visit the Weathering page to learn more about this process. 
Caution sign

Plants help keep the soil from being eroded.


Other Great Resources 

Written By: Leah Tolby.