5 Things to Know About the Soil Erosion Crisis 


How much do you know about the global soil crisis? We hear often about issues like water pollution, deforestation, and ozone degradation, but the world’s fast-eroding layer of topsoil will soon become a massive problem.

When surface water drains from a construction site, exposed soil may runoff of the site during the drainage process. If the soil is allowed to runoff from a construction site, the soil can pollute waterbodies and wetlands. Soil runoff damages habitat for aquatic life, decreases the recreational value of waterbodies, and can promote the growth of algae.


In order to prevent soil runoff, erosion and sediment control is important on every construction site. If erosion and sediment control measures are not in place, soil runoff from construction sites of all sizes can pollute the environment. Responsible development practices minimize this pollution by promoting the installation of devices to control erosion and reduce the amount of sediment leaving construction sites.


Rain events and snowmelt can have devastating impacts on the environment, property and infrastructure. This devastation is caused by landslides and mudslides. Recent landslide events in California caused billions of dollars of damage and twenty people lost their lives. The 2004 mudslide in Peek’s Creek caused at least five people to lose their lives and fifteen homes to be destroyed.


Geotechnical engineers understand the significance of soil erosion and compaction and are concerned about the effects of this worldwide trend. Here are five things you must know today about the soil erosion crisis.

  1. Half the planet’s topsoil has been lost in only 50 years.

    Soil is the skin of the planet; it’s impossible to understate its importance for everything from farming to vegetation to stormwater management. A variety of factors are at play in the loss of quality soil around the world including compaction, salination, and nutrient degradation.

  2. Population growth is a driver of soil degradation.

    Why? Because more people require more food, more clothing, and more land to develop with buildings and structures. Particularly in vulnerable areas with booming populations, little care is often paid to the long-term effects that rapid development and expansion has on soil. Zoning and better local regulatory practices can help.

  3. Soil loss contributes to carbon emissions.

    Soil performs many jobs. It holds water, it roots plant matter…but one of its most underappreciated qualities is its ability to absorb carbon. As soil erodes and compacts, it loses its chance to hold onto ozone-permeating carbon, the effects of which are equal to (or worse than) burning a comparable amount of fossil fuel.

  4. “Sustainability” is a key word for soil erosion.

    The challenges facing the world’s soil structure are myriad; thankfully, there are dozens of organization and countless individual developers, businesses, and engineering firms working together to combat the problem. Sustainable land use isn’t just a necessity for stopping erosion, it’s a necessity for the viability of the planet.

  5. Managing soil responsibly takes experience.

    Responsibly reaping the benefits of soil – its nutrients, its foundation – isn’t as complicated as it might seem. A lot can be done by the implementation of strategies such as green development (i.e. planting trees nearby compacted soil), rotating crops more slowly, and paying special attention to drainage zones.

Shield Engineering are experts in soil engineering. We understand the challenges and opportunities soil presents…to developers, to localities, and to the natural environment. Our Environmental Services group is well-versed  in responsible development and its positive impacts on soild and the environment.

Does your project involve extensive testing in areas like soil density or drainage capability? Are you concerned about the impact your largescale project will have on the environment around it? Maybe you need help determining the best-use of the land you’ve already purchased?

Shield Engineering is a comprehensive engineering and design services firm. We operate all over the United States; call us when you’re ready to learn more.


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