Wind Erosion

Background information

Wind erosion is a widespread phenomenon causing serious soil degradation. It is estimated that about 28% of the global land area experiencing land degradation suffers from this wind-driven soil erosion process. In agricultural lands, soil erosion by wind mainly results from the removal of the finest and most biological active part of the soil richest in organic matter and nutrients. Repeated exposure to wind erosion can have permanent effects on agricultural soil degradation, making it difficult to maintain favourable soil conditions in the long run.

Wind erosion is also a European phenomenon. According to the European Environment Agency, about 42 million ha of European agricultural land may be affected by wind erosion. Local studies reported that wind erosion can affect both the semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean region and the temperate climate areas of the northern European countries. However, little is known about the extent and magnitude of wind erosion throughout Europe.

Understanding spatial and temporal patterns in land susceptibility to wind erosion is essential to design effective management strategies to control land degradation. The lack of researches, particularly at the landscape to regional scales, prevents national and European institutions from taking actions aimed at an effective mitigating of land degradation. With respect to this significant research gaps, the EC-JRC Soil concluded a new series of studies at Pan-European scale to assess: 

  • Soil erosion by wind in European agricultural soils: A GIS version of the Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) was developed in JRC to model at large scale wind erosion. The model is designed to predict the daily soil loss potential by wind erosion at 1km spatial resolution. 
  • Land susceptibility to wind erosion: An Index of Land Susceptibility to Wind Erosion (ILSWE) was created by combining spatiotemporal variations of the most influential wind erosion factors (i.e. climatic erosivity, soil erodibility, vegetation cover and landscape roughness).  
  • Wind erosion susceptibility of soils: The wind-erodible fraction of soil (EF) is one of the key parameters for estimating the susceptibility of soil to wind erosion. 
  • Former studies: Agriculture Field Parameters on NUTS-3 regions


To get access to the data, please compile the online form; instructions will then follow how to download the data. The data download page will provide you access the page containing three available datasets: 

  1. Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) quantitave assessment (2001-2010) 
  2. Index of Land Susceptibility to Wind Erosion (ILSWE) qualitative assessment 1981-2010;
  3. Wind-erodible fraction of soil (EF), and
  4. Agriculture Field Parameters on NUTS-3 regions for Wind erosion research.



More Information

Pasquale Borrelli, Panos Panagos. European Commission, Joint Reseach Centre, Ispra, Italy.


Soil loss by wind erosion

Field measurements and observations have shown that wind erosion is a threat for numerous arable lands in the European Union (EU). Wind erosion affects both the semi-arid areas of the Mediterranean region as well as the temperate climate areas of the northern European countries. Yet, there is still a lack of knowledge which limits the understanding about where, when and how heavily wind erosion is affecting European arable lands. Currently, the challenge is to integrate the insights gained by recent pan-European assessments, local measurements, observations and field-scale model exercises into a new generation of regional-scale wind erosion models. This is an important step to make the complex matter of wind erosion dynamics more tangible for decision-makers and to support further research on a field-scale level. 

Study area: For the purposes of the model the arable land of the 28 Member States of the European Union were selected (EU-28). More specifically, the study area covered the following CORINE 2006 land cover unit: non-irrigated arable land (code 2.1.1) and permanently irrigated land (code 2.1.2). The resulting modelling area amounted to ca. 96.1 million hectares.

Methods and Results: A GIS version of the Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) was developed to i) move a step forward into the large-scale wind erosion modelling, ii) evaluate the soil loss potential due to wind erosion in the arable land of the EU, and iii) provide a tool useful to support field-based observations of wind erosion. The model was designed to predict the daily soil loss potential at a ca. 1 km2 spatial resolution. The average annual soil loss predicted by GIS-RWEQ in the EU arable land totalled 0.53  Mg ha-1 yr-1, with the 2nd quantile and the 4th quantile equal to 0.3 and 1.9 Mg ha-1 yr-1, respectively. The cross-validation shows a high consistency with local measurements reported in literature.



Figure 1: Soil loss by wind erosion in European agricultural soils. Work performed by a modified version of RWEQ. Spatial resolution: 1km. Spatial Coverage: EU-28
Figure 2: Index of Land Susceptibility to Wind Erosion (ILSWE) predicted for 36 European Contries (at spatial resolution 500m).
Erodible fraction
Figure 3: Wind erosion susceptibility of European soils (500 m resolution) based on the estimation of the wind-erodible fraction of soil (EF). Non-erodible surfaces (lakes, glaciers, bare rocks, urban areas) are described as No Data.

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Title: Soil erosion by wind
Resource Type: Datasets, Soil Threats Data
Registration requested: Request Form
Year: 2016
Publisher: European Commission, Joint Research Centre (JRC)
Language: en