Environmental Benefits of Erosion Control
In many applications like construction, vegetation removal leaves the landscape vulnerable to erosion, which washes soil away, depletes nutrients, alters the landscape and pollutes nearby water supplies. Soil erosion is one of the top 10 global soil threats, and the world loses a soccer field worth of soil to erosion every five seconds.
Rolled erosion control products (RECPs) like erosion control blankets offer an ideal solution. These natural vegetative covers provide various environmental advantages by minimizing erosion damage and degrading naturally into the soil.
What Is Erosion Control?
Erosion control is the practice of controlling or preventing soil erosion, especially in agricultural, conservation, construction and land development applications. The everyday processes of these operations often lead to erosion and can significantly impact surrounding communities, plants and wildlife. Erosion control helps minimize those harms.
Erosion prevention plays an integral role in two essential engineering techniques — low-impact development (LID) and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) construction:
- Low-impact development: LID operates by minimizing adverse environmental effects wherever possible. LID principles include conserving natural areas, minimizing developments’ impacts on hydrology, designing projects to decelerate runoff rate and retain stormwater on-site and integrating microscale controls that evaporate, infiltrate, manage or store runoff. Erosion control is helpful in all these areas.
- LEED construction: The U.S. Green Building Council® (USGBC®) has created the LEED Green Building System™ to foster sustainable, eco-conscious construction and development. LEED principles and goals include green materials and resources, regional priority, sustainable sites and water efficiency. Effective erosion control helps companies meet these goals and gain LEED certification credits.
Why Is Erosion Control Important?
Erosion can have insidious effects on communities and ecosystems and can also cause problems for agricultural construction and landscaping companies. Erosion control is essential for several reasons:
- Eco-friendliness: Erosion control measures provide several environmental benefits, which we’ll get to below. They preserve the integrity of local ecosystems and maintain biodiversity.
- Regulatory compliance: For many projects and applications, local or federal regulations require erosion control. Using effective erosion control products and techniques helps your company remain in compliance and avoid fines.
- Community protection: Erosion can make land unstable over time. Enough soil erosion can bring water dangerously close to houses, businesses and schools and threaten them with floods. Using reliable erosion control methods helps preserve the safety of those buildings and their inhabitants or patrons.
Four Environmental Benefits of Erosion Control
Below are a few of erosion control’s environmental benefits:
1. Reducing Runoff Velocity
When sites use erosion control blankets, the vegetative layers absorb the energy of the rain as it hits them. By doing so, they reduce the velocity of the subsequent runoff. The slower, less forceful runoff carries away only a small amount of sediment.
2. Maintaining Soil Integrity
RECPs like erosion control blankets also act as filters to trap sediments and keep them from entering runoff streams. The blankets thus help maintain the integrity and absorptive capacity of the soil. Topsoil, which is the most likely part of the ground to erode, contains the most nutrients, so preserving soil integrity also means maintaining fertile land for vegetation growth.
3. Controlling Pollutants
Often, when sediments wash away in runoff, they carry chemical residues with them. The soil from a construction site, for instance, might contain paint, solvent or adhesive residues. These pollutants can diminish the water quality, affix themselves to the soil in other areas, stunt vegetation and poison local wildlife. Using erosion control blankets decreases these harmful effects.
4. Maintaining Habitats and Biodiversity
As erosion sweeps more and more sediment away, it can erode significant chunks of land over time, causing habitat loss for the wildlife species that live there. When these species die-off or must leave in search of new homes, the area’s biodiversity diminishes. Using erosion control blankets keeps soil in place to preserve habitats and help various species flourish.
Environmental Benefits in Three Industries
Though they do have applications for residential properties, most erosion control products find use in commercial or industrial applications:
When farmers till their fields, they loosen the soil, and when these lands lie fallow, they lack the root systems that otherwise hold the dirt in place. Both scenarios raise the threat of erosion significantly. When topsoil erodes, it carries away many of the nutrients needed to grow abundant, healthy crops. As a result, erosion can decrease crop yields by up to 50%.
Agricultural runoff is also particularly insidious because it usually contains excessive nutrients like phosphates and nitrates from fertilizer and manure. When these nutrients run off into local water supplies, they can cause algae overgrowth, oxygen depletion, reduced water quality and the eventual death of many aquatic species. Erosion control measures preserve the nutrient-rich topsoil, help agricultural operations thrive and prevent nutrient pollution.
When construction companies cut down trees and clear land for new projects, they also increase the risk of erosion. Using erosion control blankets contains the soil and reduces environmental disruption during construction. It also makes the construction project more efficient because construction companies will not have to replace eroded soil or remove sediment from sewers or stormwater basins.
3. Land Development
Land development, which precedes construction and involves changing the landscape’s natural features to make it more suitable for building, also tends to remove natural vegetation and increase erosion risk. Erosion control blankets reduce the likelihood that erosion from land development will cause pollution and displace native species.
Environmental Benefits for Shorelines and Stream Restoration
In conservation work, erosion control also has particular benefits for shoreline preservation and stream restoration.
Homeowners, businesses and municipal governments along a bank or coast often want to preserve the shoreline, both to protect the rich aquatic environment and to secure property and infrastructure against encroaching waters. Many properties near shorelines install rip-rap — large rocks intended to hold soil in place. However, rip-rap has a few disadvantages. It is more expensive than vegetated alternatives, it is often less aesthetically appealing and it does not provide the habitat enhancements of vegetated solutions. Erosion control blankets are often much more practical and cost-effective.
Conservation efforts aimed at stream restoration often find erosion control blankets to be appealing options. The blankets blend into the natural environment much more convincingly than other solutions like rip-rap. They also hold their shape much better than straw, which can blow away in heavy winds and pollute the streams it was designed to protect.
Contact East Coast Erosion Control for Dependable Erosion Control Blankets
To see the benefits of soil erosion control at your site, partner with East Coast Erosion Control. We offer a range of biodegradable and photodegradable erosion control blankets made of natural materials that will minimize erosion for a time — short-term, extended-term or with accelerated degradation — and then degrade naturally into the soil. We can provide permanent blankets as well. You’ll protect the environment by preventing erosion and gain peace of mind knowing your RECPs will enhance the environment rather than polluting or permanently altering it.
Contact us today to learn more.