Published online in the journal Nature Geoscience, the research offers stark evidence of how humans are reshaping the planet. It also finds that - contrary to previous scholarship - rivers are as powerful as glaciers at eroding landscapes.
"Our initial goal was to investigate the scientific claim that rivers are less erosive than glaciers," says Michele Koppes, a professor of geography at the University of British Columbia (UBC) and lead author of the study.
"But while exploring that, we found that many of the areas currently experiencing the highest rates of erosion are being caused by climate change and human activity such as modern agriculture," says Koppes, who conducted the study with David Montgomery of the University of Washington.
In some cases, the researchers found large-scale farming eroded lowland agricultural fields at rates comparable to glaciers and rivers in the most tectonically active mountain belts.
"This study shows that humans are playing a significant role in speeding erosion in low lying areas," says Koppes. "These low-altitude areas do not have the same rate of tectonic uplift, so the land is being denuded at an unsustainable rate."
Koppes says other significant causes of low-altitude erosion include glacier melting caused by climate change and volcanic eruptions.
The highest erosion rates have typically been seen at high altitudes where tectonic forces pit rising rock against rivers and glaciers, says Koppes, who with Montgomery created with an updated database of erosion rates for more than 900 rivers and glaciers worldwide, documented over the past decade with new geologic measuring techniques.
Contrary to previous scholarship, they found that rivers and glaciers in active mountain ranges are both capable of eroding landscapes by more than one centimetre per year. Studies had previously indicated that glaciers could erode landscapes as much as 10 times faster than rivers, Koppes says.
Basil Waugh | EurekAlert!
World's first solar fuels reactor for night passes test
21.02.2018 | SolarPACES
Geophysicists and atmospheric scientists partner to track typhoons' seismic footprints
16.02.2018 | Princeton University
Quantum computers may one day solve algorithmic problems which even the biggest supercomputers today can’t manage. But how do you test a quantum computer to...
For the first time, a team of researchers at the Max-Planck Institute (MPI) for Polymer Research in Mainz, Germany, has succeeded in making an integrated circuit (IC) from just a monolayer of a semiconducting polymer via a bottom-up, self-assembly approach.
In the self-assembly process, the semiconducting polymer arranges itself into an ordered monolayer in a transistor. The transistors are binary switches used...
Breakthrough provides a new concept of the design of molecular motors, sensors and electricity generators at nanoscale
Researchers from the Institute of Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry of the CAS (IOCB Prague), Institute of Physics of the CAS (IP CAS) and Palacký University...
For photographers and scientists, lenses are lifesavers. They reflect and refract light, making possible the imaging systems that drive discovery through the microscope and preserve history through cameras.
But today's glass-based lenses are bulky and resist miniaturization. Next-generation technologies, such as ultrathin cameras or tiny microscopes, require...
Scientists from the University of Zurich have succeeded for the first time in tracking individual stem cells and their neuronal progeny over months within the intact adult brain. This study sheds light on how new neurons are produced throughout life.
The generation of new nerve cells was once thought to taper off at the end of embryonic development. However, recent research has shown that the adult brain...
15.02.2018 | Event News
13.02.2018 | Event News
12.02.2018 | Event News
22.02.2018 | Life Sciences
22.02.2018 | Information Technology
22.02.2018 | Health and Medicine