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How to Prevent Soil Erosion on Steep Slopes

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Anywhere you have regular rain, soil erosion becomes a problem. We all learned in grade school how flowing water washes away sand, soil and wears rock away over time. Steep slopes present a unique problem because they increase the speed of the water flow, increasing soil erosion over time.  What can prevent soil erosion on steep slopes?

Improve Human Behavior

While soil erosion does occur naturally, human activities can exacerbate the problem. Things like allowing domesticated animals to overgraze an area, deforesting an entire area for our own uses, and using the land for cultivation without allowing it to lie fallow for a season to restore its nutrient content can all encourage excessive soil erosion.

The first thing we need to do is to improve how we approach the use of the land. We need to replant deforested areas almost as soon as the harvest finishes. Domesticated animals should move periodically to prevent overgrazing, and crops should rotate to improve soil health. If crop rotation isn’t an option, fields should lie unused, or fallow, for at least a season. This allows them to restore the health of the soil.

By restoring what we take, we can help to prevent soil erosion on steep terrain. However, that’s not always easy when you talk about harvesting hundreds of acres of forest. It’s a daunting task for sure. How can we replant these places we’ve harvested to keep erosion to a minimum?

Utilize Hydroseeding

Hydroseeding is making ripples across the country for its various uses — from preventing erosion to reducing the impact of forest fires. The process of hydroseeding is fairly simple. Seeds mix with a slurry of water, fertilizers, soil and other things the seeds need to germinate, grow and thrive.  Then they are sprayed out over the target area with custom designed hydroseeding trucks.

These trucks are similar to the water spray trucks you see on construction sites — only their tanks hold the seed slurry instead of water. This slurry can spray out in a uniform layer anywhere the truck can drive.  Current uses include reseeding grass along the sides of highways and golf courses. However, anything that can be planted from seed can be planted using a hydroseeder.

Build Terraces

Sometimes a hill face or mountainside is too steep to consider replanting as a way to control erosion. This is simply due to the angle of descent not usually anything that human engineers can control. If this is the case, building terraces can sometimes help slow down erosion long enough for plants and other vegetation to take hold.

Terracing steep slopes makes them look like stair-steps down the hillside. Each step is designed to slow down the water movement a little bit. This gives the plants or seeds a chance to take root before they wash away.

Terraces can be small and simple, or enormous and elaborate — they can be used in large applications or in backyard gardens, depending on the need. If you live on a steep slope and are noticing signs of soil erosion, this option could be the best for your property. The goal here is to slow down the movement of water and allow the natural landscape to return.

Use Erosion Blankets

If you’ve ever planted a backyard garden, you’ve probably used weed-net before. It’s a thin, permeable membrane that can easily cut, allowing you to place your plants while preventing weed growth. Erosion blankets are similar to these weed nets, but they don’t prevent plant growth. These biodegradable blankets can secure to the landscape to allow plants time to grow and take root while simultaneously preventing erosion.

Erosion blankets break down and fall apart over time, providing additional nutrients to the newly sprouted grasses, trees and flowers that grow in their place.


Erosion isn’t something we can avoid — it is a part of the natural order, and how much of the world was shaped. Even the Grand Canyon was once a little crevice and was shaped by water wearing away stone over millions of years. To reduce our impact on the natural world, we can take steps to stop human-caused erosion from causing more damage in the long run.

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Article by: Megan Ray Nichols

Megan Ray Nichols is a freelance science writer and science enthusiast. Her favorite subjects include astronomy and the environment. Megan is also a regular contributor to The Naked Scientists, Thomas Insights, and Real Clear Science. When she isn't writing, Megan loves watching movies, hiking, and stargazing.