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News Article

First global erosivity map published

New map and database illustrate regional differences in rainfall erosivity

Soil is an essential natural resource for maintaining healthy plant growth, human nutrition and ecosystem services.  However, much of the world’s soils are being eroded at a faster rate than they are being formed. Soils are particularly vulnerable to the effects of rainfall, one of the main factors controlling water erosion.  While water erosion is considered to be one of the most significant causes of global soil degradation, patterns of global rainfall erosivity have been poorly quantified and predictions have large uncertainties.  This prevents the adoption and implementation of effective mitigation and restoration strategies.  However, last week, the first ever global erosivity map was published, providing a new, much-needed insight into the geography of the rain’s impact on soil erosion.

The European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) collected data from 3,625 meteorological stations across 63 countries to establish the Global Rainfall Erosivity Database (GloReDa) and global erosivity map, which illustrates the differences between climatic regions.  Globally, the average rainfall erosivity was estimated to be 2,190 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 yr−1. According to the data, the region with the highest rainfall erosivity is found in South America (particularly around the Amazon Basin) and the Caribbean countries, Central Africa and some areas of Western Africa and South East Asia.  The lowest values are found in mid and high latitude regions such as Canada, the Russian Federation, northern Europe, northern Africa, the Middle East and Southern Australia. 

The JRC stresses that high rainfall erosivity does not necessarily lead to high levels of erosion, since factors such as soil characteristics, vegetative cover and land use can also have a significant impact on soil erosion. 

The new erosivity map is a useful input to both global and continental assessments of soil erosion by water, flood risk and the prevention of natural hazards.  It is anticipated that the dataset will be used by soil scientists and policy makers to help raise awareness on the importance of healthy soils and to help achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The map has been made publicly available and can be used to conduct national, continental and global modelling of soil erosion.

Further information on soil erosion is available to subscribers of the Environmental Impact database.  For example, using the search string "soil erosion" AND precipitation yields 1,144 records, while "Soil erosion" and "spatial variation" yields 634 results. "water erosion" and "soil degradation" returns 343 records.  These results can be refined further by selecting the geographical location on the right-hand side of the screen. 

Journal Reference

Panos Panagos, Pasquale Borrelli, Katrin Meusburger, Bofu Yu, Andreas Klik, Kyoung Jae Lim, Jae E. Yang, Jinren Ni, Chiyuan Miao, Nabansu Chattopadhyay, Seyed Hamidreza Sadeghi, Zeinab Hazbavi, Mohsen Zabihi, Gennady A. Larionov, Sergey F. Krasnov, Andrey V. Gorobets, Yoav Levi, Gunay Erpul, Christian Birkel, Natalia Hoyos, Victoria Naipal, Paulo Tarso S. Oliveira, Carlos A. Bonilla, Mohamed Meddi, Werner Nel, Hassan Al Dashti, Martino Boni, Nazzareno Diodato, Kristof Van Oost, Mark Nearing, Cristiano Ballabio. Global rainfall erosivity assessment based on high-temporal resolution rainfall recordsScientific Reports, 2017; 7 (1) DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-04282-8

Article details

  • Author(s)
  • Stephanie Cole
  • Date
  • 10 July 2017
  • Source
  • European Commission Joint Research Centre
  • Subject(s)
  • Biodiversity
  • Climate Change