Agriculure and Soil Erosion
Geoscientist Isaac Larsen uses a multidisciplinary approach to learn how landscapes evolve.
He has received national attention and media coverage for his research finding that topsoil in the American Midwest is eroding 100 times faster than it's forming, putting the future of food production and even civilization in peril.
University of Washington: Ph.D.
Carleton College: B.A.
Media Coverage (7)
Soil in Midwestern U.S. eroding 10 to 1,000 times faster than it forms
National Science Foundation online
In a discovery that has repercussions for everything from domestic agricultural policy to global food security and plans to mitigate climate change, researchers at the University of Massachusetts have found that the rate of soil erosion in the midwestern U.S. is 10 to 1,000 times greater than pre-agricultural erosion rates.
Study: Midwest topsoil ‘being eroded 100 times faster than it’s forming’
The Spokesman-Review print
An eye-popping new report from a leading geologist at the University of Massachusetts Amherst argues that soil erosion in the Midwest — including from samples in southwestern Minnesota — is happening at a far faster clip than previously estimated. “On a human time scale, the change is pretty much impossible to see,” said UMass Amherst geoscientist Isaac Larsen, whose findings were published this month in the scientific journal, Geology.
Midwest soil is eroding faster than ever. Modern farming could be to blame.
Researchers have found that the rate of soil erosion in the Midwestern US is 10 to 1,000 times greater than it was before modern agriculture practices reigned supreme across the region. “The Midwest is losing soil, for most of these sites, about 100 times faster than it’s forming,” Isaac Larsen, a geoscience professor at the University of Massachusetts and a study co-author, told Grist.
More Than 50 Billion Tons of Topsoil Have Eroded in the Midwest
Smithsonian Magazine online
Since farmers began tilling the land in the Midwest 160 years ago, 57.6 billion metric tons of topsoil have eroded, according to a study published recently in Earth's Future. The loss has occurred despite conservation efforts implemented in the 1930s after the Dust Bowl, and the erosion rate is estimated to be double what the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says is sustainable. Future crop production could be severely limited if it continues, reports Rachel Crowell for Science News.
The Midwest has lost 57 billion metric tons of topsoil over the last 160 years, new study finds
High Plains Public Radio radio
"A few years ago, Isaac Larsen attended a wedding at a pioneer church in Minnesota. After the ceremony, he wandered around a cemetery by the church. He noticed the cemetery, which had never been tilled, was at least a foot higher than a corn field just on the other side of a fence. 'That was one of those ‘lightbulb’ moments that told me that a lot of soil had been eroded from that field since the founding of the church', Larsen said.
Soil erosion hits farmers in the midwest, costs billions annually
"Agricultural soil erosion is problematic. I've looked through past civilizations and linked their decline to the decline in their soils," says Isaac Larsen at the University of Massachusetts Amherst says
Could America be Headed for Another Dust Bowl?
Mother Jones online
Growing up in rural Iowa in the 1990s, Isaac Larsen remembers a unique herald of springtime. The snowbanks piled along roads, once white or gray, would turn black. The culprit was windblown dust, stirred from barren farm fields into the air. Even as some of the region’s farmers have adopted more sustainable practices, the dust still flies. Not long ago, Larsen’s mother told her son about an encounter with a dust storm, saying “the soil was just blowing across the road—almost like a blizzard, but black.”