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Paper No. 14
Presentation Time: 8:00 AM-6:00 PM


PALLADINO, Sarah Michelle, Department of Geological Sciences, University fo Colorado at Boulder, 2200 Colorado Ave, Box 399, Boulder, CO 80309 and ARTHURS, Leilani, Department of Geology and Geography, Georgia Southern University, PO Box 8149, Statesboro, GA 30460,

Scientific research on soil erosion (eg. Csorba, 2010) suggests that anthropomorphic activities contribute to vastly accelerated rates of soil erosion. Such human activities include mining, construction, recreational activities, and livestock grazing, however agriculture is by far the greatest cause of earth movement today (Hook, 2007; Pimental 1995). Studies conducted by the USDA, the ARS and private research organizations resulted in a variety of estimated rates of erosion, and Montgomery (2007) used these and other studies to calculate a global agricultural soil erosion rate of 0.2-1.5 mm/yr. Geological erosion rates, which are not influenced by anthropogenic activities, are calculated from sedimentary rock volumes and indicate a soil loss rate that range from .016 - .024 mm/yr over the last 500 million years (Wilkinson, 2007; Hooke 2005). These fluctuations in soil loss are a result of natural erosion processes such as water erosion, wind erosion, and glacial erosion but these major geologic events are incomparable to contemporary human influenced soil loss rates.

Over the past 11,000 years, humans contributed to and continue to contribute to soil erosion that results in environmental changes comparable to major geologic events of the past (Hook, 2000). Although extensive scientific research has been conducted and published regarding anthropogenic erosion, there remains a lack of effective communication of these findings between the scientific community and the general public. Media coverage is often the primary conduit through which the general public is educated about environmental issues such as “global warming,”(Dove, 1997; Foley, 2009) but anthropogenic erosion has received little if any attention from the media. In a survey-based study of ~300 undergraduate non-geology majors, we found that most students neither associated humans with erosion prior to taking an introductory geology lab course nor after having taken. Given the important role of soil in a sustainable future, this study concludes that the under-representation of anthropogenic soil erosion in the public media and in school curricula should be carefully examined and suggests possible approaches to improving communication about this important environmental issue between the scientific community and the general public.

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