Hearing the word "erosion" tends to evoke thoughts of a degradation or negative effect. In nature, erosion is an ongoing creative process. When man exacerbates or modifies the natural erosive process, the effects become more profound or destructive. Erosion of the earth provides several basic benefits that help continue the process of life.
Creation of Soil
All soils contain particles that originated as some form of rock. Sand and clay bits make the basic structure of soil, with various amounts of silt and organic matter to create different textures and nutritional characteristics. In take eons for rock to weather away from a solid mass into smaller particles that eventually create a soil. Weathering or degradation of rock is a process called denuding. As rock crumbles into smaller pieces, more elements are released into the environment and potentially made available for use by life, notably microorganisms and plants.
As rock or soil erodes from one location and is moved to another, new habitats form for life to establish. As volcanoes erode and create soil, plants establish to create a habitat for animal and insect life to prosper. Erosion of soil into a river is later deposited downstream on the banks or at the mouth of the river in a shallow swamp or dune. This creates new landmass for various life forms to live. Wind erosion can blow particulates hundreds of miles away, depositing mineral-rich dust atop areas that benefit, either creating new habitats -- such as soil building up in rock crevices -- or enriching the soil where plants already grow. Shoreline erosion creates new habitats for aquatic plant and animal life in larger beaches or shoals.
Binding of Carbon
Erosion of rock and the movement of grit and soil particles binds carbon from both the atmosphere and the ground. As the eroding matter rolls over organic matter or is exposed to air, the pores trap or absorb carbon, removing it from the habitat. Scientists learned the earth's carbon is bound up by the ongoing process of erosion each year, a natural process referred to as carbon sinking. Therefore, erosion helps diminish a small amount of the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that has been occurring at an accelerated rate since the Industrial Revolution.
Erosion resulting from water runoff or movement of waves can cleanse a habitat. Often erosion from farmland is considered bad, as it removes beneficial soil and moves agricultural chemical residues into waterways. However, erosion can act to dissipate and/or remove toxins or undesirable components of a landscape. Ultimately, the erosion of earth's land masses carries debris into the salt-rich waters of the oceans. Any toxins, however bad and regrettable, are diluted in the oceans, hopefully to levels so small as to not affect life of any kind.