Erosion is the process of weathering and transport of solids (sediment, soil, rock and other particles) in the natural environment or their source and deposits them elsewhere. It usually occurs due to transport by wind, water, or ice; by down-slope creep of soil and other material under the force of gravity; or by living organisms, such as burrowing animals, in the case of bioerosion.
Erosion is a natural process, but it has been increased dramatically by human land use, especially industrial agriculture, deforestation, and urban sprawl. Land that is used for industrial agriculture generally experiences a significant greater rate of erosion than that of land under natural vegetation, or land used for sustainable agricultural practices. This is particularly true if tillage is used, which reduces vegetation cover on the surface of the soil and disturbs both soil structure and plant roots that would otherwise hold the soil in place. However, improved land use practices can limit erosion, using techniques such as terrace-building, conservation tillage practices, and tree planting.
A certain amount of erosion is natural and, in fact, healthy for the ecosystem. For example, gravels continuously move downstream in watercourses. Excessive erosion, however, causes serious problems, such as receiving water sedimentation, ecosystem damage and outright loss of soil.
Erosion is distinguished from weathering, which is the process of chemical or physical breakdown of the minerals in the rocks, although the two processes may occur concurrently.