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Soil erosion from sugar beet in Central Europe in response to climate change induced seasonal precipitation variations.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

<mark>Journal publication date</mark>1/01/2008
Issue number1
Number of pages15
Pages (from-to)91-105
Publication statusPublished
Original languageEnglish


This study estimates the implications of projected seasonal variations in rainfall quantities caused by climate change for water erosion rates by means of a modeling case study on sugar beet cultivation in the Central European region of Upper-Austria. A modified version of the revised Morgan-Morgan-Finney erosion model was used to assess soil losses in one conventional and three conservation tillage systems. The model was employed to a climatic reference scenario (1960-89) and a climate change scenario (2070-99). Data on precipitation changes for the 2070-99 scenario were based on the IPCC SRES A2 emission scenario as simulated by the regional climate model HadRM3H. Weather data in daily time-steps, for both scenarios, were generated by the stochastic weather generator LARS WG 3.0. The HadRM3H climate change simulation did not show any significant differences in annual precipitation totals, but strong seasonal shifts of rainfall amounts between 10 and 14% were apparent. This intra-annual precipitation change resulted in a net-decrease of rainfall amounts in erosion sensitive months and an overall increase of rainfall in a period, in which the considered agricultural area proved to be less prone to erosion. The predicted annual average soil losses under climate change declined in all tillage systems by 11 to 24%, which is inside the margins of uncertainty typically attached to climate change impact studies. Annual soil erosion rates in the conventional tillage system exceeded 10 t ha- 1 a- 1 in both climate scenarios. Compared to these unsustainably high soil losses the conservation tillage systems show reduced soil erosion rates by between 49 and 87%. The study highlights the importance of seasonal changes in climatic parameters for the discussion about the impacts of global climate change on future soil erosion rates in Central Europe. The results also indicate the high potential of adaptive land-use management for climate change response strategies in the agricultural sector.