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Accelerated Erosion with Intensive Land Use
In New England, as in many other locations, widespread land clearing and agriculture led to soil erosion.
In the pre-settlement era, the thick forest cover prevented erosion by intercepting rain and binding the soil with a dense network of roots. Through evapotranspiration, the forests recycled moisture to the atmosphere, reducing the amount of water moving downslope into brooks streams and rivers.
This tight control over hydrology and water movement changed with land clearing for agriculture. Throughout the period of deforestation and intensive agricultural use, soil moved across fields, down hillslopes and into major river systems.