Submitted to: Encyclopedia of Soil Science
Publication Type: Book / chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/24/2011
Publication Date: 10/21/2011
Citation: Van Pelt, R.S. 2011. Erosion by Wind: Environmental Effects. In: Lal, R. editor.Encyclopedia of Soil Science: Second Edition. London: Taylor and Francis publishers. p. 1-7. Interpretive Summary: Wind erosion is a land degrading process that affects human and environmental health as well as human safety and economic concerns. The study of the environmental effects of wind erosion is a relatively new field but is of increasing interest as sand and dust in air masses cross borders and affect the lives of people far-removed from the region in which the erosion is occurring. This entry to the Encyclopedia of Soil Science presents a discussion of the ways in which the earth’s environment is affected by wind erosion and fugitive soil dust.
Technical Abstract: Wind erosion is the movement and loss of soil resulting from the interaction of a bare, loose, dry soil surface with wind. Wind erosion is a soil degrading process that reduces soil productivity, damages crops, and may, in extreme cases, result in burial of fertile soil horizons and structures. The most visible evidence of wind erosion is fugitive dust that may be entrained in global circulation patterns and transported hundreds or thousands of kilometers from the source. Global estimates of soil dust flux to the atmosphere range from 250 to 5000 Tg on an annual basis. Fugitive dust contains higher concentrations of organic carbon, basic cations such as Ca, Mg, and Na, plant nutrients such as N, P, K, and Fe, and numerous trace metals than the soils from which it was derived. These chemical species contained on dust, especially when hydrated, have been documented to react with and catalyze reactions with other atmospheric particulates, colloids, and gasses and therefore has an influence on rainfall chemistry, the chemistry of surface waters, and the fertility of mid-latitude oceans. Soil dust has been documented to transport living organisms including bacteria, fungi, and algae. Atmospheric dust may also have an effect on climate forcing by absorbing solar radiation in the atmosphere and reducing the radiation flux on the earth’s surface. This entry explores the many ways that wind erosion and resulting fugitive dust impact various environments here on earth.