The European Commission's Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection (COM(2012)46) identified soil erosion as an important threat to European Union's (EU) soil resources. Gully erosion is an important but hitherto poorly understood component of this threat. Here we present the results of an unprecedented attempt to monitor the occurrence of gully erosion across the EU and UK. We integrate a soil erosion module into the 2018 LUCAS Topsoil Survey, which was conducted to monitor the soil health status across the EU and to support actions to prevent soil degradation. We discuss and explore opportunities to further improve this method. The 2018 LUCAS Topsoil Survey consisted of soil sampling (0–20 cm depth) and erosion observations conducted in ca. 10% (n = 24,759) of the 238,077 Land Use/Cover Area frame Survey (LUCAS) 2018 in-field survey sites. Gully erosion channels were detected for ca. 1% (211 sites) of the visited LUCAS Topsoil sites. Commission (false positives, 2.5%) and omission errors (false negatives, 5.6%) were found to be low and at a level that could not compromise the representativeness of the gully erosion survey. Overall, the findings indicate that the tested 2018 LUCAS Topsoil in-field gully erosion monitoring system is effective for detecting the incidence of gully erosion. The morphogenesis of the mapped gullies suggests that the approach is an effective tool to map permanent gullies, whereas it appears less effective to detect short-lived forms like ephemeral gullies. Spatial patterns emerging from the LUCAS Topsoil field observations provide new insights on typical gully formation sites across the EU and UK. This can help to design further targeted research activities. An extension of this approach to all LUCAS sites of 2022 would significantly enhance our understanding of the geographical distribution of gully erosion processes across the EU. Repeated every three years, LUCAS soil erosion surveys would contribute to assess the state of gully erosion in the EU over time. It will also enable monitoring and eventually predicting the dynamics of gully erosion. Data collected were part of the publicly available Gully Erosion LUCAS visual assessment (GE-LUCAS v1.0) inventory.
Borrelli, P., Poesen, J., Vanmaercke, M., Ballabio, C., Hervas, J., Maerker, M., et al. (2022). Monitoring gully erosion in the European Union: A novel approach based on the Land Use/Cover Area frame survey (LUCAS). INTERNATIONAL SOIL AND WATER CONSERVATION RESEARCH, 10(1), 17-28 [10.1016/j.iswcr.2021.09.002].