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How to prevent and manage soil erosion

By: Grant King - IndustrySearch writer
02 July, 2015

We've all seen them; jagged scars in the land and along beaches, banks subsiding onto sand, previously stable land falling inexorably away. It's not a pretty sight, nor is it an attractive occurrence as its economic consequences can be far uglier than its aesthetic ones.

Here are a few tips to help you understand erosion and keep it at bay.

Use land logically

Sadly, far too much erosion can be prevented and is simply the result of inappropriate land use. Make sure you assess your land first - its location, soil type and, equally important, its slope. Then ask yourself: Is the purpose I have in mind for this land likely to be a catalyst for erosion?

If you don't know, get expert advice. Land management field manuals are a great source of information; they contain specifically mapped data for cropping land and offer helpful suggestions on best use for land and soil types.

Useful maps are also available for grazing land, though these only tend to give soil types; any further delving is up to you.

Protect land from the elements

It might sound absurd to consider throwing a big blanket over your land, but there are ways to give it sufficient cover and minimise erosion – as little as 30 per cent cover can be enough to prevent major runoff and soil loss.

The key is to stop runoff concentrating. Think of it this way: If you spray bare soil with a fine mist, how much soil will wash away? Not much. On the other hand, blast the same soil with a high pressure hose and your precious soil has no option.

Pasture with adequate cover spreads runoff and stops it creating any concentrated flow. Also make sure tracks and fence lines aren't potential dams that could turn into rivers of erosion. Try to locate them where their impact will be minimal.

Get to the root of the problem

Nothing stops erosion in its tracks better than trees. Tree roots anchor land like great creeping, clinging tentacles. Trees stabilise steep slopes and can greatly reduce river bank erosion. Dead leaves also create a perfect blanket of mulch to protect the soil beneath from direct rainfall.

Build contour banks

You could liken contour banks to a controlled luge ride for your runoff. Be warned though; upland contour bank runoff systems must be carefully planned to direct water flow away from potential problems downhill, and your neighbours won't appreciate it if you turn their land into a swamp.

Discuss your plans with anyone who may be affected, then seek advice from an expert.

Save our beaches

Any article on erosion wouldn't be complete without mentioning beaches. They are, after all, the public face of erosion, the household name in land decay, simply because they are so integral to the Australian lifestyle.

A beachfront scarred by erosion almost cuts us personally. Beachfronts are also beset by an entirely different erosion-inducing beast called the sea. Fortunately there are ways and means.

Erosion control mats can stabilise shoreline banks long enough for new trees to take root. Natural fibres such as coir can stimulate growth and provide stability to root systems. In particularly bad case scenarios, seawalls can be built with a geotextile underlay.

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