Erosion and transport

Erosion

Weathering and erosion are often confused:

  • weathering is the wearing away of rocks
  • erosion is the movement of the broken pieces away from the site of weathering

For example, a limestone cliff may be weathered by freeze-thaw, a type of physical weathering. This means that rock in the cliff becomes broken into smaller pieces.

Erosion happens when these pieces of rock fall away down the cliff.

White limestone chalk cliffs at Beachy Head on the Sussex Coast
Heaps of rocks, caused by weathering then erosion, lying at the bottom of a limestone cliff

Transport

Rivers and streams can move pieces of rock. This is called transport. Fast-flowing rivers can transport large rocks, but slow-moving rivers can only transport tiny pieces of rock.

As the pieces of rock are carried along by the water, they bash against each other and the river bed. They gradually wear away because of this. They become smaller and more rounded.