Soil erosion by water
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.
- References Favis-Mortlock, D. T. and Boardman, J., 1995. Nonlinear responses of soil erosion to climate change: a modeling study on the UK South Downs. Catena 25: 365-387. IPCC, 2007a. Summary for Policymakers. In: Climate Change 2007: Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability. Contribution of Working Group II to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Parry, M.L.; Canziani, O. F; Palutikof, J. P.; van der Linden, P.J. and Hanson, C. E. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK, 7-22. Kirkby, M. J.; Jones, R. J. A.; Irvine, B.; Gobin, A.; Govers, G.; Cerdan, O.; Van Rompaey, A. J. J.; Le Bissonnais, Y.; Daroussin, J.; King, D.; Montanarella, L.; Grimm, M.; Vieillefont, V.; Puigdefabregas, J.; Boer, M.; Kosmas, C.; Yassoglou, N.; Tsara, M.; Mantel, S.; Van Lynden, G. J. and Huting, J., 2004. Pan-European Soil Erosion Risk Assessment: The PESERA Map, Version 1 October 2003. Explanation of Special Publication Ispra 2004 No. 73 (S.P.I.04.73). European Soil Bureau Research Report No. 16, EUR 21176, 18 pp. and 1 map in ISO B1 format. Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg. Williams J. R.; Sharpley, A. N., 1989. Productivity Impact Calculator.
- Soil erosion risk assessment for Europe for the year 2000
Policy context and targets
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: http://ec.europa.eu/environment/climat/adaptation/index_en.htm
No targets have been specified
Related policy documents
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Key policy question
Methodology for indicator calculation
Methodology for gap filling
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EEA data references
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External data references
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Data sets uncertainty
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Short term work
Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.
Long term work
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Responsibility and ownership
EEA Contact InfoGeertrui Veerle Erika Louwagie
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A – What is happening to the environment and to humans?)