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Soil erosion by water

Indicator Specification Created 11 Jul 2008 Published 08 Sep 2008 Last modified 31 Jan 2013, 01:06 PM
Note: new version is available!
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Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)

Justification for indicator selection

Climate change will influence soil erosion processes. Excess water due to intense or prolonged precipitation can cause tremendous damage to soil. Sheet-wash, rill and gully development can strip the topsoil from the land, thus effectively destroying the capability of the soil to provide economic or environmental services. Favis-Mortlock and Boardman (1995), using the Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator (EPIC) model (Williams and Sharpley, 1989), found that a 7 % increase in precipitation could lead to a 26 % increase in erosion in the United Kingdom. In high mountain regions like the Alps, decreasing permafrost (observed and projected) can lead, for example, to more landslides with substantial impact on infrastructure (roads, railways, cable cars) and economic sectors like tourism.
Many of the soil erosion risk models contain a rainfall erosivity factor and a soil erodibility factor that reflect average-year precipitation conditions. However, currently available values for the rainfall erosivity and soil erodibility factors may inadequately represent low-probability return-period storms and the more frequent and intense storms under projected climate change.
The relationship between climate change and soil erosion is complex and needs to be better defined, investigated and monitored in order to have a clear picture of future trends. Measurements and models with more detailed temporal and spatial distribution of precipitation and impacts on soil erosion or risk of erosion should be developed, as should indicators for assessing appropriate measures.


Scientific references:

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

  • Soil erosion risk assessment for Europe for the year 2000


Policy context and targets

Context description

In April 2009 the European Commission presented a White Paper on the framework for adaptation policies and measures to reduce the European Union's vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. The aim is to increase the resilience to climate change of health, property and the productive functions of land, inter alia by improving the management of water resources and ecosystems. More knowledge is needed on climate impact and vulnerability but a considerable amount of information and research already exists which can be shared better through a proposed Clearing House Mechanism. The White Paper stresses the need to mainstream adaptation into existing and new EU policies. A number of Member States have already taken action and several have prepared national adaptation plans. The EU is also developing actions to enhance and finance adaptation in developing countries as part of a new post-2012 global climate agreement expected in Copenhagen (Dec. 2009). For more information see:


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

External data references

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

Data sets uncertainty

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Geertrui Veerle Erika Louwagie


Joint Research Centre (JRC)
European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
CLIM 028
Version id: 1
Primary theme: Climate change Climate change


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DPSIR: Impact
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)

Geographic coverage


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