Rangeland soil quality--Wind erosion (Soil Quality Information Sheet, Rangeland Sheet 10)

TitleRangeland soil quality--Wind erosion (Soil Quality Information Sheet, Rangeland Sheet 10)
Publication TypeGovernment Report
Year of Publication2001
AuthorsHerrick JE, Tugel A.J., Shaver P.L., Pellant M.
PublisherUSDA, Natural Resources Conservation Service
ARIS Log Number142826
Keywordsgovernment publication
AbstractWind erosion is the physical wearing of the earth's surface by wind. Wind erosion removes and redistributes soil. Small blowout areas may be associated with adjacent areas of deposition at the base of plants or behind obstacles, such as rocks, shrubs, fence rows, and roadbanks. In many cases the fine soil particles and organic matter are blown offsite or into the atmosphere as dust. Reducing the amount of bare ground by increasing the extent of vegetation, litter, and biological crusts reduces the risk of wind erosion. Wind erosion can occur only when windspeed at the soil surface is sufficient to lift and transport soil particles. Moist soils and soils with stable aggregates or rock fragments are less likely to be eroded than other soils. Thick lichen crusts provide greater resistance to erosion than thin crusts. Sand moving across the soil surface wears away soil aggregates and thin crusts, causing more soil particles to become detached and to be blown away. A cover of plants disrupts the force of the wind. Soils are more susceptible to wind erosion where disturbance exposes individual particles and soil aggregates to the wind. When physical or biological crusts are crushed or broken apart by such disturbances as heavy grazing, vehicle or foot traffic, and water erosion, particle movement begins at the lower windspeeds. The following conditions increase the susceptibility of the soil to wind erosion: crushed or broken soil surface crusts during windy periods; a reduction in the plant cover, biological crusts, and litter, resulting in bare soil; a decrease in the amount of organic matter in the soil, causing decreased aggregate stability; and long, unsheltered, smooth soil surfaces. The risk of erosion and the potential for recovery after erosion must be considered in any management plan. Disturbances, such as heavy grazing, fire that removes too much plant cover and litter, or vehicle and foot traffic, can increase the risk of wind erosion. Physical crusts protect the soil from wind erosion but can retard plant establishment. Areas with fertile topsoil are most likely to recover after a disturbance. Where much of the topsoil is lost, the site may no longer be able to support the historic vegetation. Management strategies include: Maintain or increase the protective cover of plants and litter on the soil through the application of good rangeland management practices. Reduce disturbances of physical and biological crusts, especially in arid areas. Maintain soil aggregate stability by improving or maintaining the quality of the plant community.
Government BodySoil Quality Institute, Grazing Lands Technology Institute, and National Soil Survey Center, Natural Resources Conservation Service, USDA; the Jornada Experimental Range, Agricultural Research Service, USDA; and Bureau of Land Management, USDI