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Isaac Larsen - University of Massachusetts Amherst. Amherst, MA, US

Isaac Larsen

Associate Professor of Earth, Geographic, and Climate Sciences | University of Massachusetts Amherst


Geoscientist Isaac Larsen has made groundbreaking discoveries about the rate, extent and causes of soil erosion in the American Midwest.

Expertise (5)

Soil Erosion

Landsacape Evolution



Agriculure and Soil Erosion


Geoscientist Isaac Larsen 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.





Isaac Larsen standing on the erosional escarpment at Stinton Prairie, Iowa loading image


Isaac Larsen says oil erosion hits farmers in the midwest, costs billions annually


Education (2)

University of Washington: Ph.D.

Carleton College: B.A.

Select 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.

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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.

eroded soil

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Midwest soil is eroding faster than ever. Modern farming could be to blame.

Grist  online


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.

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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.

isaac larsen

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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.

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Soil erosion hits farmers in the midwest, costs billions annually

CNBC  tv


"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

isaac larsen

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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.”

dusty land

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