Soil erosion by water is one of the major threats to soils in the European Union, with a negative impact on ecosystem services, crop production, drinking water and carbon stocks. The European Commission's Soil Thematic Strategy has identified soil erosion as a relevant issue for the European Union, and has proposed an approach to monitor soil erosion. This paper presents the application of a modified version of the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) model (RUSLE2015) to estimate soil loss in Europe for the reference year 2010, within which the input factors (Rainfall erosivity, Soil erodibility, Cover-Management, Topography, Support practices) are modelled with the most recently available pan-European datasets. While RUSLE has been used before in Europe, RUSLE2015 improves the quality of estimation by introducing updated (2010), high-resolution (100m), peer-reviewed input layers. The mean soil loss rate in the European Union's erosion-prone lands (agricultural, forests and semi-natural areas) was found to be 2.46 t ha-1 yr-1, resulting in a total soil loss of 970 Mt annually. A major benefit of RUSLE2015 is that it can incorporate the effects of policy scenarios based on land-use changes and support practices. The impact of the Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC) requirements of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) and the EU's guidelines for soil protection can be grouped under land management (reduced/no till, plant residues, cover crops) and support practices (contour farming, maintenance of stone walls and grass margins). The policy interventions (GAEC, Soil Thematic Strategy) over the past decade have reduced the soil loss rate by 9.5% on average in Europe, and by 20% for arable lands. Special attention is given to the 4 million ha of croplands which currently have unsustainable soil loss rates of more than 5 t ha-1 yr-1, and to which policy measures should be targeted.
Panagos, P., Borrelli, P., Poesen, J., Ballabio, C., Lugato, E., Meusburger, K., et al. (2015). The new assessment of soil loss by water erosion in Europe. ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE & POLICY, 54, 438-447 [10.1016/j.envsci.2015.08.012].