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Soil Erosion

            Soil quality is one of the most basic and perhaps least understood indicators of land health. Soil supports plant growth and represents the living reservoir that buffers the flows of water, nutrients, and energy through an ecosystem. The ongoing degradation of the earth's soils by human activity such as urbanization, deforestation, overgrazing of cattle, and poor agricultural practices has brought about irreversible consequences that may lead to desertification of an area. .
             Erosion is the wearing away of material on the surface of the land by wind, water, or gravity. In nature, erosion occurs very slowly, as natural weathering and geologic processes remove rock, parent material, or soil from the land surface. Human activity, on the other hand, greatly increases the rate of soil erosion.
             Water plays an important role in soil erosion. When an area receives more water (in the form of rain, melting snow, or ice) than the ground can absorb, the excess water flows to the lowest level, carrying loose material with it. Gentle slopes are subject to sheet and rill erosion, in which the runoff removes a thin layer of top soil. .
             Glaciers are important agents of erosion. Although a glacier moves slowly, it gradually removes all the loose material from the surface over which it travels, leaving bare rock surfaces when the ice melts. .
             Wind is another active agent of erosion, especially in arid climates with little vegetation. Wind blowing across bare land lifts particles of sand and silt but leaves behind larger pebbles. Very small soil particles can be suspended in the air and carried away with the wind. Eventually, a surface layer of closely packed stones is formed as the sand and silt is removed. The removal of large quantities of loose material lowers the landscape slowly.
             Soil faces many threats throughout the world. Deforestation, overgrazing by livestock and agricultural practices that fail to conserve soil are three main causes of accelerated soil loss.

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