Projections of soil loss by water erosion in Europe by 2050
Changes in future soil erosion rates are driven by climatic conditions, land use patterns, socio-economic development, farmers’ choices, and importantly modified by agro-environmental policies. This study simulates the impact of expected climatic and land use change projections on future rates of soil erosion by water (sheet and rill processes) in 2050 within the agricultural areas of the European Union and the UK, compared to a current representative baseline (2016). We used the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) adjusted at continental scale with projections of future rainfall erosivity and land use change. Future rainfall erosivity is predicted using an average composite of 19 Global Climate Models (GCMs) from the Coupled Model Inter-comparison Projects (CMIP5) WorldClim dataset across three Representative Concentration Pathways (RCP2.6, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). Concerning future land use change and crop dynamics, we used the projections provided by the Common Agricultural Policy Regional Impact Analysis (CAPRI) model.
Depending on the RCP scenario, we estimate a +13%-22.5% increase in the mean soil erosion rate in the EU and UK, rising from an estimated 3.07 t ha-1 yr-1 (2016) to between 3.46 t ha-1 yr-1 (RCP2.6 scenario) and 3.76 t ha-1 yr-1 (RCP8.5 scenario). Here, we disentangle the impact of land use change and climate change in relation to future soil losses. Projected land use change in the EU and UK indicates an overall increase of pasture coverage in place of croplands. This land use change is estimated to reduce soil erosion rates (-3%). In contrast, the increases in future rainfall erosivity (+15.7%-25.5%) will force important increases of soil erosion requiring further targeted intervention measures.
- Modelled area: 1.8 million Km2 which is about ~41.5% of European Union (EU27) and UK (focus in agricultural soils).
- Resolution: 100mx 100m
- Global Coverage: European Union (EU27) and UK
- Climate inpiuts: Three alternative (2.6, 4.5 & 8.5) Shared Socioeconomic Pathway and Representative Concentration Pathway (SSP-RCP) scenarios. 19 General Climate Circulation Models (GCMs) used to assess future rainfall erosivity scenarios
- Land cover inputs: Common Agricultural Policy Regional Impact analysis (CAPRI) model projects on crop dynamics and land use changes.
- Total soil loss:The baseline model (2016) estimates the soil loss in agricultural soils to about 553 Mt yr-1 while the projections estimate an increase to 595-645 Mt yr-1 by 2050.
- Mean soil loss: Soil loss by water erosion is projected to increase by 13–22.5 % in EU and UK by 2050. In the baseline year (2016), mean soil loss is about 3.07 t ha-1 yr-1 in EU agricultural soils. Under the business-as-usual or least mitigation pathway scenario (RCP8.5), this is expected to increase to 3.76t ha-1 yr-1 by 2050.
Data available: Three raster files for soil erosion depending on the greenhouse gas concentration scenario (RCP2.6, RCP4.5, RCP8.5), the erosivity projections and the C-factor 2050. Note: If the user wants to reproduce our figures of the publication, it is simple to do just a mathematical operation against the Soil Erosion, R-factor and C-factor baselines (2010/16).
Panagos, P., Ballabio, C., Himics, M., Scarpa, S., Matthews, F., Bogonos, M., Poesen, J., Borrelli, P., 2021. Projections of soil loss by water erosion in Europe by 2050. Environmental Science & Policy, 124: 380-392.
More info: Erosion in Europe - Projections 2050