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
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
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/