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Modelling soil erosion responses to climate change in three catchments of Great Britain

Ciampalini, R., Constantine, J. A., Walker-Springett, K. J., Hales, T. C. ORCID:, Ormerod, S. J. ORCID: and Hall, I. R. ORCID: 2020. Modelling soil erosion responses to climate change in three catchments of Great Britain. Science of the Total Environment 749 , 141657. 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.141657

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Simulations of 21st century climate change for Great Britain predict increased seasonal precipitation that may lead to widespread soil loss by increasing surface runoff. Land use and different vegetation cover can respond differently to this scenario, mitigating or enhancing soil erosion. Here, by means of a sensitivity analysis of the PESERA soil erosion model, we test the potential for climate and vegetation to impact soil loss by surface-runoff to three differentiated British catchments. First, to understand general behaviours, we modelled soil erosion adopting regular increments for rainfall and temperature from the baseline values (1961–1990). Then, we tested future climate scenarios adopting projections from UKCP09 (UK Climate Projections) under the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) on a defined medium CO2 emissions scenario, SRES-A1B (Nakicenovic et al., 2000), at the horizons 2010–39, 2040–69 and 2070–99. Our results indicate that the model reacts to the changes of the climatic parameters and the three catchments respond differently depending on their land use arrangement. Increases in rainfall produce a rise in soil erosion while higher temperatures tend to lower the process because of the mitigating action of the vegetation. Even under a significantly wetter climate, warmer air temperatures can limit soil erosion by enhancing primary productivity and in turn improving leaf interception, infiltration-capacity, and reducing soil erodibility. Consequently, for specific land uses, the increase in air temperature associated with climate change can modify the rainfall thresholds to generate soil loss, and soil erosion rates could decline by up to about 33% from 2070 to 2099. We deduce that enhanced primary productivity due to climate change can introduce a negative-feedback mechanism limiting soil loss by surface runoff as vegetation-induced impacts on soil hydrology and erodibility offset the effects of increased precipitation. The expansion of permanent vegetation cover could provide an adaptation strategy to reduce climate-driven soil loss.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Earth and Environmental Sciences
Sustainable Places Research Institute (PLACES)
Water Research Institute (WATER)
Publisher: Elsevier
ISSN: 0048-9697
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 1 September 2020
Date of Acceptance: 10 August 2020
Last Modified: 17 Nov 2023 12:45

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