With so much innovation taking place in almost every industry imaginable, it’s hard not to wonder about the future of erosion and sediment control. Global erosion is increasing at unprecedented rates, but this means the erosion control product market has seen exponential growth.
What is Erosion, and How is it Harmful?
Erosion is the degradation of soil, rock, and other materials or structures. The main drivers behind erosion are wind, water, and weather. However, rainwater that is higher in acid than usual will also cause significant erosion.
Over time, erosion can cause massive damage levels, including retreating shorelines, ruined property, and even landslides. If the erosion occurs on levees, riverbanks, or dams, it could cause large-scale flooding. The American coastline is currently receding at 25 - 50 feet per year, with the higher end of the scale being around the Great Lakes. If you own or manage land, that’s 25 - 50 feet of land lost to erosion each year.
What Is Sediment and How Does it Contribute to Erosion?
Sediment is a term geographers use to describe the particles of rock, soil, and sand picked up and transported by water. These particles are usually the result of heavy erosion in themselves and come in various shapes and sizes.
With earth and rock being carried away by rain and rivers, it is permanently lost from its place of origin. However, the sediment becomes a cause of further erosion as it is scraped over land or riverbeds.
Sediment will eventually settle in calm waters, adding to the banks, beds, or land.
What is the Current State of Global Erosion?
Global rates of erosion are currently high and increasing all the time. The average soil erosion rate internationally is 2.4 t ha-1 yr-1 and nearly a quarter of the world’s beaches are eroding at more than half a meter per year.
With all types of erosion increasing rapidly across the globe, extensive erosion control measures are needed in many high-risk areas. The United States alone is losing 25 - 50 feet of coastline each year, and soil erosion costs $8 billion in global economic loss annually. This financial loss comes from a reduction in crop yield and higher use of water.
Some of the factors causing the increase in global erosion include:
Changing weather patterns
Increased precipitation, especially rainfall
More frequent heavy rain
More extreme weather events along the coastline
Increased construction and agriculture
Beach tourism and sand loss
Climate change is also a significant factor in the world’s increased erosion. Due to higher global temperatures, there is more dry weather broken up by heavier rain. This makes soil easier to wash away, and it can be eroded in larger quantities at a much faster rate. Heat and drought also contribute to erosion due to dried out soil cracking and no longer supporting the plant life that anchors it. Vegetation is crucial to preventing soil erosion, as it acts as both an anchor (via the roots) and a shelter (via the leaves).
How Does This Affect the Future of Erosion and Sediment Control?
As erosion increases, especially on arable land, the need for erosion control measures increases with it. The market for erosion control blankets (just one in a wide range of erosion control products) will grow by 6.8% by 2026, generating up to $134 million.
With increased demand comes increased innovation, so the industry will likely see new and improved technology.
Global Erosion Control By Type
Excelsior (aspen) erosion control blankets are currently the most popular product due to their durability and the fact that they are biodegradable. Concrete mats, geotextiles, and fiber logs are also popular.
With environmental awareness at an all-time high and more governmental policies regarding recycling, the future of erosion control lies in biodegradable products and recyclable materials.
Global Erosion Control By Application
The most considerable market growth is currently in slope protection, reflecting the increase in soil erosion. Slopes, riverbanks, and embankments are susceptible to run-off and are standard geographical features of the land.
As more and more people set-up businesses, construction projects, and homes on shorelines, it makes sense that shoreline erosion control products will see some growth. This is especially true in terms of infrastructure, as where there are businesses, there will be roads and railway lines, which need protection from erosion.
With arable land losing tonnes of soil each year to erosion, products designed to combat soil erosion are also likely to gain more market share. More and more countries are discovering soil erosion issues on their arable land, so increased international demand for soil erosion control products is likely.
Global Erosion Control By Region
Many developed countries already have robust erosion control policies in place, but these still need maintenance and replacements. On the other hand, developing countries will see increased soil erosion levels on agricultural land, and in many areas, it is causing severe damage.
Affordable, easily transportable erosion control products produced on a large scale are likely to be in demand for many countries shortly.
What New Technology is Available for Erosion and Sediment Control?
Innovation is changing the way we do things in every area of life, and erosion control is no different. From modeling to geotextiles, new technology is discovered or adapted every day, and some of it could help you manage erosion.
The use of modeling has been in the spotlight lately, but modeling can do so much more than help governments plan out disease control scenarios. Modeling has been used to understand factors in soil erosion, estimate sea-level rise, and much more.
As we understand more about modeling and AI, we can use it to predict erosion levels, highlight problem areas, and estimate land and crop loss.
Previously, builders, farmers, and landowners would have to use helicopters or boats to explore their surroundings and pinpoint potential erosion problem areas. With the invention of drones, many more people can affordably access more of their land.
Once you have this kind of information, you can take pre-emptive action and minimize your property's risk. Drones also allow you to review your existing erosion control measures more regularly and undertake necessary repairs quicker.
Chemicals and Substances
Various chemicals help fight erosion, such as BioBarrier, fertilizers, pesticides, hydro mulching, hydroseeding, polyacrylamide (PAM), and many more. However, many substances are harmful to property, wildlife, or vegetation.
The geotextiles industry is an ever-evolving field that continually produces new products, new techniques, and new ideas.
Some of the most popular geotextiles are erosion control blankets, fiber logs, and coir matting.
Tips For Using Geotextiles
Geotextiles are a great way of protecting your land and structures from erosion. Here are some tips on how you can use them:
Use on paved or unpaved roads
Use in riverbeds, landfill sites, or in drainage basins
Useful for maintaining green areas or pipe trenches
Can help retain wall structure
Can be sealed to increase impermeability
Come in a variety of materials
Secure two or more together to protect a more extensive area
Create a base for riprap by laying a geotextile down first
Geotextiles help manage sediment by slowing down the water flow enough for the residue to either settle or collect in the material. They are also useful for protecting soil and adding vegetation to an otherwise bare patch of ground. You can even lay geotextiles in seeded areas temporarily to protect your seeds from rain and wind.
Although geotextiles may seem like a recent invention, they have been around since the 1950s. Previously, they were known as filter fabrics, and they are occasionally still called this today. However, with most of the world desperately in need of erosion control, geotextiles will be the future of erosion control.
With more and more developing countries requiring erosion control, geotextiles provide an accessible solution. They can be handwoven with natural materials and are easy to install. Indeed, natural geotextiles are increasingly popular due to their biodegradable factor. Geotextiles can be synthetic, but there is a distinct trend for natural, biodegradable, or recyclable materials.
Erosion and Sediment Control with Flexamat
Flexamat is the company that pioneered the tied concrete mat, an essential tool in erosion control. Based in Ohio, FlexamatⓇ has over 30 years of industry expertise and ships all over the world.
Some of Flexamat’s products include:
Flexamat’s achievements in the erosion control industry are numerous. The US-based firm is responsible for the technology used to manufacture and package erosion control mats into rolls. We pride ourselves on our customizable products and use recycled materials wherever possible. Many of our erosion control products are fully biodegradable.
Step into the future of erosion control and sediment control with Flexamat