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!
NASA examines Peru's deadly rainfall
24.03.2017 | NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center
Steep rise of the Bernese Alps
24.03.2017 | Universität Bern
Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.
The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.
Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...
Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.
Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...
In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.
Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.
Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...
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