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Removal of surface material from the Earth's crust and transportation of the eroded materials by natural agencies from the point of removal. Erosion is caused by wind action, river and stream processes, marine processes (sea waves), and glacial processes. The complementary actions of erosion and deposition or sedimentation operate through wind, moving water, and ice to alter existing landforms and create new landforms. Erosion will often occur after rock has been disintegrated or altered through weathering. Moving water is the most important natural agent of erosion. Sea wave erosion results primarily from the impact of waves striking the shore and the abrasive action of sand and pebbles agitated by wave action. Erosion by rivers is caused by the scouring action of the sediment-containing flowing water. Glacial erosion occurs by surface abrasion as the ice, embedded with debris, moves slowly over the ground accompanied by the plucking of rock from the surface. Wind plays a key role in arid regions as blowing sand breaks down rock and dislodges surface sand from unprotected sand dunes. Human intervention, as by the removal of natural vegetation for farming or grazing purposes, can lead to or accelerate erosion by wind and water. See alsosheet erosion.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on erosion, visit Britannica.com.