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Eroded LandscapeErosion


Erosion causes the land to break down and soil to be washed or blown away. This process creates ditches and gaps, cracking the landscape. As the soil erodes, it becomes unable to support many forms of plant life. This disturbance is hazardous because the land cannot be easily used for any planting purposes.

Erosion has been a problem for Indiana’s land since the pioneers first cleared the forests. Beginning in the early 1800s, white settlers leveled the forests to create farmland. They did not expect that, by doing so, they would create problems with erosion. But when they cut down the trees, they destroyed the roots that held the soil, making the land susceptible to erosion.

Water and wind, especially water, are the main causes of erosion. For farmers the problem is of special concern, because soil loses its fertility when the nutrient-rich topsoil is washed or blown away. Without fertile soil, crops cannot grow. To reduce erosion, many farmers have opted for no-till farming, which does not significantly disturb the topsoil and thereby create the opportunity for erosion. On sloped fields, the need to avoid plowing the land is especially great.

Erosion also creates problems by washing silt into rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water, thus disrupting their ecosystems. Fish spawning beds are literally smothered by the heavy deposits, and any nutrients or contaminants that are washed along with the silt likewise may harm or even destroy the plants and animals that live there.

To help slow or stop erosion, tree and ground-cover plantings can hold soil in place. In northern Indiana, for instance, jack pine was once the favored remedy for erosion. In southern Indiana, trees like Virginia pine, shortleaf pine, and bristly locust were typically used. Chosen because they readily adapted to hot, dry, eroded areas, these trees provided a block against the wind and water and stabilized the soil. Today, more common species used to stop erosion include Virginia pine (in both southern and northern parts of the state), red and white pines, black locust, and red cedar. These trees help by soaking up the excess water, holding the soil in place, and providing nutrients to make the soil fertile again.

The best way to stop erosion, of course, is to prevent it from happening in the first place. Smart farming practices and conservative, common-sense approaches to construction and development can reduce the tons of topsoil that are eroded from Indiana's landscapes every year.


State of Indiana. Indiana Dept. of Natural Resources. Division of Forestry. "Erosion Control.” Stewardship Notes. 13 Oct. 2002 <http://www.in.gov/dnr/forestry/pdfs/

"Natural Resources." Dearborn County [Indiana] Comprehensive Plan. 2000. HNTB Consultants. 21 Oct. 2002. <http://www.dearborncounty.org/masterplan/