Future soil erosion likely?

Published online: Oct 02, 2006
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Rainstorms 50 to 100 years from now may be more intense and more frequent than today - and may pack more soil-eroding power.

U.S. Agricultural Research Service scientists have found that storm water running off landscapes - orchards, vineyards, even hilly backyards or parklands - could increase by 20 to 30 percent and the runoff might wash away 25 to 50 percent more soil.

ARS soil scientist Mark Nearing and colleagues ran climate data from the past century through seven leading mathematical models to get a glimpse of what might be ahead for erosion-prone farms and ranches in the United States and overseas.

Nearing says the estimates were based on an array of factors, including the presumption that the U.S. climate trends of the past 100 years - and farming practices - will continue along the same lines.

The results of the research suggest that increases in soil erosion will outpace increases in rainfall. For every 1 percent increase in rainfall, there will be a 1.7 percent increase in soil erosion.

These finding and others are helping scientists get a better idea of the possible soil-erosion-related consequences of global climate change. From that foundation, they can seek to develop ways to better protect vulnerable topsoil from the erosive power of tomorrow's thunderstorms.

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