Soil area the size of Berlin lost each year due to water erosion in the EUSeptember 02, 2015
A recent assessment carried out by the JRC estimates that water erodes 970 million tonnes of soil every year in the EU. This would mean a one metre-depth loss of soil from an area corresponding to the size of the city of Berlin, or a one centimetre loss from an area twice the size of Belgium. The fact that it takes 100 years to form 1 cm of new soil under natural temperate grasslands gives an idea of the magnitude of the problem of soil loss in the EU.
Soil erosion by water accounts for the greatest loss of soil in Europe compared to other erosion processes, such as wind. The highest average annual rates of soil erosion by water were found in Italy (8.46 t/ha), Slovenia (7.43 t/ha) and Austria (7.19 t/ha), and the lowest were found in Finland (0.06 t/ha), Estonia (0.21 t/ha) and the Netherlands (0.27 t/ha). Agricultural lands account for 68.3% of total soil losses, while forests account for less than 1%. A new high resolution map (100 m) of soil erosion by water in the EU (2010) is now available, providing details of soil erosion by water across the EU.
The JRC estimates that an average of 2.46 tonnes per hectare of soil are lost every year across the EU from land that is prone to erosion (agricultural, forests and semi-natural areas), amounting to a loss of 970 million tonnes of soil (around 600 million m3) per year. This gives cause for concern, especially considering that the average annual rate of soil formation in Europe is considerably less, at 1.4 tonnes per hectare.
While recent policy interventions (such as the Good Agricultural and Environment Condition requirements of the CAP, and the EU Soil Thematic Strategy) have reduced the rate of soil loss in the EU by an average of 9.5% overall, and by 20% for arable lands, the study finds that four million hectares of EU croplands have unsustainable rates of soil loss (more than 5 tonnes per hectare per year).
The map of soil loss by water erosion delineates areas of concern that will require special protection measures, such as financing more sustainable land management practices. As soil erosion has huge impacts on ecosystems, food production, drinking water, carbon stocks and biodiversity, the EU has called for quantitative assessments of soil rates at EU level, and put soil protection at the heart of its environmental agenda. The authors recommend that soil protection measures focus on the 24% of EU lands that experience an average annual soil loss of two tonnes per hectare.
According to future land use scenarios, estimations are that rates of soil loss by water will fall slightly by 2050, mainly due to an increase in forest areas. However, pressures to increase the amount of arable land for food and fuel could offset the reduction, unless more sustainable land management practices are applied. On the other hand, climate change scenarios estimate that the soil loss rates may increase by 10-15% by 2050 due to an analogous increase of rainfall-induced erosion in Europe.
The new assessment of soil loss by water erosion in Europe: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1462901115300654
European Soil Data Centre: Soil erosion by water (RUSLE2015): http://esdac.jrc.ec.europa.eu/content/soil-erosion-water-rusle2015
European Commission Joint Research Centre
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Related Erosion Reading:
Erosion: Changing Earth's Surface (Amazing Science)
by Robin Koontz (Author), Matthew Harrad (Illustrator)
Did you know that rain, waves, wind, snow, and ice can change the shape of Earth’s surface? They can create valleys, sea stacks, caves, and rock arches. Learn about the natural forces of erosion and how they shape the land. View Details
Weathering and Erosion (Science Readers: Content and Literacy)
by Torrey Maloof (Author)
The Earth's surface is always changing. Learn how weathering and erosion constantly reshapes the earth through wind, water, and more! Even people can drastically change the earth's surface. With the help of easy-to-read text and bright, colorful images, this reader simplifies challenging scientific topics while keeping students engaged from cover to cover. This reader also includes instructions for an engaging science activity where students can see what happens when land erodes. A helpful glossary and index are also included for additional support. View Details
Cracking Up: A Story About Erosion (Science Works)
by Jacqui Bailey (Author), Matthew Lilly (Illustrator)
Describes the process of erosion and how water, ice, wind, and sun wear away at Earth's surface. View Details
Erosion (Reading Essentials in Science)
by Virginia Castleman (Author)
Earth is changing every day as a result of erosion, and weather plays a major part. View Details
Erosion and Weathering (Rocks: The Hard Facts)
by Willa Dee (Author)
Discusses the different causes of erosion and weathering, how these phenomena create problems for people, and their role in the rock cycle. View Details
Erosion (Let's Explore Science)
by Shirley Duke (Author)
Examines the different forces of erosion, such as wind, waves, acid rain, and glaciers and explains how those forces affect the topography of the earth. View Details
Soil Erosion and How to Prevent It (Everybody Digs Soil)
by Natalie Hyde (Author)
Looks at the processes of weathering, erosion, and deposition, and how they affect plant and animal life. View Details
Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations
by David R. Montgomery (Author)
Dirt, soil, call it what you want—it's everywhere we go. It is the root of our existence, supporting our feet, our farms, our cities. This fascinating yet disquieting book finds, however, that we are running out of dirt, and it's no laughing matter. An engaging natural and cultural history of soil that sweeps from ancient civilizations to modern times, Dirt: The Erosion of Civilizations explores the compelling idea that we are—and have long been—using up Earth's soil. Once bare of protective vegetation and exposed to wind and rain, cultivated soils erode bit by bit, slowly enough... View Details
Erosion (Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets)
by Jorie Graham (Author)
. . . . How clean
the mind is,
holy grave. It is this girl
della Francesca, unbuttoning
her blue dress,
her mantle of weather,
to go into
labor. Come, we can go in.
It is before
the birth of god. No-one
has risen yet
to the museums, to the assembly
and wings to the open air
market. This is
what the living do: go in.
It's a long... View Details
Erosion: How Land Forms, How It Changes (Exploring Science: Earth Science)
by Darlene R. Stille (Author), Farhana Hossain (Illustrator)
Describes the process of erosion, including how the power of wind, water, and glaciers have changed the Earth's surface. Includes information on fossils. View Details