Exposed soil — whether it’s left unprotected by farming, construction or industrial activity — has an increased risk of eroding. The environmental impact of erosion can include loss of farmland, sedimentation of waterways, reduced air quality, and, in severe cases, total abandonment of the land for any productive purpose.
However, there are methods available to temporarily control erosion and minimize its environmental impact during construction and until permanent ground cover can be re-established.
Lakeland College’s Centre for Sustainable Innovation became a candidate for temporary erosion control when a section of its grounds was left bare after a gasifier and solar concentrator were installed. That gave students from the Environmental Conservation and Reclamation program a chance to put what they were learning into practice.
The students were asked to develop an erosion-control strategy for the site. They decided to seed the land with a native seed mix before installing temporary erosion-control matting to protect against erosion while the seeds germinated and grew.
Matting was chosen because the site was small, it’s easy to install and affordable. However, the students took the opportunity to use the site to test and compare three types of matting with different lifespans — wood fibre, which lasts 12 months, straw, which lasts 18-24 months, and coconut fibre which persists for more than 36 months. The question was whether a more persistent mat would influence regrowth on the site; students continue to evaluate and report on that experiment.