Erosion Control

Outdoors

Georgia, along with much of the southeastern US, don’t have a positive past with erosion. Repetitive
cropping of cotton in the piedmont resulted in seven inches of topsoil being washed away into the
ocean. Soil takes hundreds of years to create, meaning that the loss of soil is something that will be
felt for generations. By the 1950s, new policies and programs began to change Georgia from endless
cotton fields to forestland and other uses that are less susceptible to erosion. In the mountains, there is
always a threat of erosion if we aren’t proactive with protecting our landscape. Let’s talk about why we
should care about erosion and some things that you can do to make sure that your land isn’t eroded
away.

With the high amount of rainfall that we receive in the mountains, erosion caused by water is the
biggest concern that we have, so I’ll focus on that. Erosion is also caused by wind and gravity. According
to the US Department of Agriculture, 2 billion tons of topsoil are lost each year in the US because of
erosion. The topsoil is the most nutrient-rich part of the soil, and so plants rely heavily on it for growth.
Therefore, losing topsoil is going to reduce your plant growth. Erosion can also lead to water quality
issues. Not only does the topsoil muddy up our lakes and rivers, but also the nutrients that the topsoil is
carrying can create algal blooms leading to decreased aquatic life. That is bad news for our lakes and the
fish that inhabit them. Erosion can also create a hardpan that will repel water and increases surface
runoff.

So let’s talk about what you can do to reduce erosion. Firstly, construction makes soil very susceptible to
erosion. Removing all the vegetation from the top of the soil leaves it open to the rainfall. Whenever
possible in construction, surround the project site with hay bales and silt fences, preserve the already
existing vegetation, and keep any piles of loose vegetation or gravel covered.

Keep stream banks covered with vegetation and trees. Those plant roots will solidify that stream bank so
that the natural erosion process will be slowed down. It will keep the stream from widening. In gardens
and around the home use mulch or compost when possible to protect bare soil. This will improve water
infiltration into the soil and reduce runoff.

Minimizing impermeable surfaces such as the driveway or walkway on your property will also reduce
erosion. Obviously, you will need some impermeable surfaces at your property, such as a roof for your
house. For cases like that, it’s important to design pathways for the water from those impermeable
surfaces to travel so that they can be deposited in a rain garden or pond. Rain gardens collect water
to allow the water to infiltrate back into the soil instead of having it run downhill. Usually, they have plants
that are adapted to living in damp soils.

If you have any questions about erosion or what you can do to prevent erosion at your property, please
contact your local Extension Office or send me an email at Jacob.Williams@uga.edu.

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