Erosion by water

Soil erosion is a natural process, occurring over geological time, and indeed it is a process that is essential for soil formation in the first place. With respect to soil degradation, most concerns about erosion are related to accelerated erosion, where the natural rate has been significantly increased mostly by human activity. Soil erosion by water is a widespread problem throughout Europe. The processes of soil erosion involve detachment of material by two processes, raindrop impact and flow traction; and transported either by saltation through the air or by overland water flow. Runoff is the most important direct driver of severe soil erosion by water and therefore processes that influence runoff play an important role in any analysis of soil erosion intensity.

By removing the most fertile topsoil, erosion reduces soil productivity and, where soils are shallow, may lead to an irreversible loss of natural farmland. Even where soil depth is good, loss of the topsoil is often not conspicuous but nevertheless potentially very damaging. Severe erosion is commonly associated with the development of temporary or permanently eroded channels or gullies that can fragment farmland. The soil removed by runoff from the land, for example during a large storm, accumulates below the eroded areas, in severe cases blocking roadways or drainage channels and inundating buildings.

Erosion rate is very sensitive to both climate and land use, as well as to detailed conservation practice at farm level. The Mediterranean region is particularly prone to erosion because it is subject to long dry periods followed by heavy bursts of erosive rain, falling on steep slopes with fragile soils. This contrasts with NW Europe where soil erosion is less because rain falling on mainly gentle slopes is evenly distributed throughout the year and consequently, the area affected by erosion is less extensive than in southern Europe. However, erosion is still a serious problem in NW and central Europe, and is on the increase. In parts of the Mediterranean region, erosion has reached a stage of irreversibility and in some places erosion has practically ceased because there is no more soil left.

With a very slow rate of soil formation, any soil loss of more than 1 t ha-1yr-1 can be considered as irreversible within a time span of 50-100 years. Losses of 20 to 40 t ha-1 in individual storms, that may happen once every two or three years, are measured regularly in Europe with losses of more than 100 t ha-1in extreme events. The main causes of soil erosion are still inappropriate agricultural practices, deforestation, overgrazing, forest fires and construction activities.

In a period of rapid changes in both climate and land use, due to global change, revised agricultural policies and changing international market forces, it is vitally important to be able to assess the state of soil erosion at a European level, using an objective methodology. This methodology must also allow the assessment of erosion to be repeated as conditions change, or to explore the broad scale implications of prospective global or European-wide changes in land utilisation. The results of applying such a methodology can provide estimates of the overall costs attributable to erosion under present and changed conditions, and objectively identify areas where more detailed study is needed and possible remedial action.

The soil erosion by water section presents 4 Different Modelling approaches: RUSLE2015 (modified version of RUSLE),  G2PESERA and MESALES. Besides the description of the models and the literature, ESDAC makes available the corresponding datasets. The European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC) has been involved in the development of those 4 models.  The latest development were performed with the RUSLE2015 model for which all modelled factors are also presented (together with their data):  K-Factor (Soil Erodibility), R-factor (Rainfall erosivity), LS-factor (Slope Length and Steepness),C-factor (Cover-Management),  P-factor (Support practices) .

The poster Soil Erosion in Europe is summarizing the modelling activities of the Soil team during the last 3 years.

 

Contact Points

Panos Panagos, E-Mail: panos.panagos@ec.europa.eu


References - Citations

 

 
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Title: Net erosion and sediment transport using WaTEM/SEDEM (for EU)
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2018
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Title: Global Rainfall Erosivity
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Registration requested: Request Form
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Country:
Ispra
Italy
Author: Panos Panagos, Cristiano Ballabio
Year: 2017
Publisher: European Commission, Joint research Centre
Language: en
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Title: Soil erosion by water (RUSLE2015)
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2015
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Title: Cover Management factor (C-factor) for the EU
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2015
Publisher: European Commission, Joint Research Centre
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Title: G2 soil erosion model data
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Projects Data
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Year: 2013
Publisher: JRC and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki
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Title: Support Practices factor (P-factor) for the EU
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2015
Publisher: European Commission, Joint Research Centre
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Title: LS-factor (Slope Length and Steepness factor) for the EU
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2015
Publisher: European Commission, Joint Research Centre
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Title: Soil erosion in forestland in Europe (using RUSLE2015)
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2015
Publisher: European Commission - DG JRC
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Title: Soil Erodibility (K- Factor) High Resolution dataset for Europe
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2014
Publisher: Joint Research Centre of the European Commission
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Title: Soil Erosion Risk Assessment in Europe data (MESALES model) - Dataset
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
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Year: 2002
Language: en
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Title: Pan European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment - PESERA
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data, Maps & Documents, Maps, Soil Data Maps
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Year: 2003
Language: en
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Title: Pan European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment - PESERA
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data, Maps & Documents, Maps, Soil Data Maps
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Registration requested: Request Form
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Year: 2003
Language: en
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