Cause, Affect and Prevention of Erosion on Urban Trees

Soil ErosionSite clearing and land grading are two construction activities that typically increase soil erosion. These actions change the soil profile and structure, affecting the stability of the soil aggregates and the water infiltration rate. Not only does the site lose soil, but the resulting sediment can interrupt the normal exchange of soil gases. The effects of erosion may be reduced by redirecting or reducing the flow of water.

Signs of Erosion

  • Loss of soil at the site
  • Visible roots
  • Poor growth
  • No basal flare of the trunk because sediment is being deposited over the root zone.


Soil Erosion Around Roots

Preventing Erosion

  • Establish vegetative buffers.
  • Install erosion fencing and geotextiles, or compost berms. Compost used for these purposes should be low in nutrients and coarse in texture.
  • Minimize the area of disturbance.
  • Plant temporary vegetative cover.
  • Mulch.

Learn more about soil erosion and conservation practices to prevent it at the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS).

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By:  Ed Macie, Regional Urban Forester, USFS Southern Region