Impacts of climate change on water erosion: A review


Soil erosion is expected to be affected by climate change. Climate changes in temperature and precipitation patterns will impact plant biomass production, infiltration rate, soil moisture, land use and crop management, and hence affect runoff and soil erosion. Close links between climate change and soil erosion have been observed in the past decades. This paper reviews the achievements regarding the impacts of climate change such as changed rainfall, vegetation cover, and land management on water erosion. More climate change models with climate scenarios and land use models should be coupled with hydrologic/erosion models to accurately predict climate change impacts. Soil erosion is expected to be affected adversely under future climate change in most case studies, although direct and indirect impacts can promote or suppress soil erosion. However, uncertainties are still involved with respect to specific influencing mechanisms and actual damages, and the impacts vary with different regions. The representation of extreme climate events should be improved in climate models. Relevant erosion processes including rill erosion, gully erosion or channel erosion need to be incorporated and differentiated in erosion models. Additionally, more research is needed to explore the impacts of crop management practices on soil erosion under future climate change. This review is intended to introduce the achievements and to point out the critical research needs to better understand and predict the responses of soil erosion to a changing climate in the future.

Earth-Science Reviews, 163, 94-117
Zhiying Li
Zhiying Li
Postdoctoral Research Associate