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Rates and spatial variations of soil erosion in Europe: A study based on erosion plot data

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Published

  • O. Cerdan
  • G. Govers
  • Y. Le Bissonnais
  • K. Van Oost
  • J. Poesen
  • N. Saby
  • A. Gobin
  • A. Vacca
  • J. Quinton
  • K. Auerswald
  • A. Klik
  • F. J. P. M. Kwaad
  • D. Raclot
  • I. Ionita
  • J. Rejman
  • S. Rousseva
  • T. Muxart
  • M. J. Roxo
  • T. Dostal
Journal publication date1/10/2010
JournalGeomorphology
Journal number1-2
Volume122
Number of pages11
Pages167-177
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

An extensive database of short to medium-term erosion rates as measured on erosion plots in Europe under natural rainfall was compiled from the literature. Statistical analysis confirmed the dominant influence of land use and cover on soil erosion rates. Sheet and rill erosion rates are highest on bare soil; vineyards show the second highest soil losses, followed by other arable lands (spring crops, orchards and winter crops). A land with a permanent vegetation cover (shrubs, grassland and forest) is characterised by soil losses which are generally more than an order of magnitude lower than those on arable land. Disturbance of permanent vegetation by fire leads to momentarily higher erosion rates but rates are still lower than those measured on arable land. We also noticed important regional differences in erosion rates. Erosion rates are generally much lower in the Mediterranean as compared to other areas in Europe; this is mainly attributed to the high soil stoniness in the Mediterranean. Measured erosion rates on arable and bare land were related to topography (slope steepness and length) and soil texture, while this was not the case for plots with a permanent land cover. We attribute this to a fundamental difference in runoff generation and sediment transfer according to land cover types. On the basis of these results we calculated mean sheet and rill erosion rates for the European area covered by the CORINE database: estimated rill and interrill erosion rates are ca. 1.2 t ha(-1) year for the whole CORINE area and ca. 3.6 t ha(-1) year(-1) for arable land. These estimates are much lower than some earlier estimates which were based on the erroneous extrapolation of small datasets. High erosion rates occur in areas dominated by vineyards, the hilly loess areas in West and Central Europe and the agricultural areas located in the piedmont areas of the major European mountain ranges. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.