An assessment of the global impact of 21st century land use change on soil erosion

Vito Ferro, Vincenzo Bagarello, Emanuele Lugato, Panos Panagos, Katrin Meusburger, Cristiano Ballabio, Sirio Modugno, David A. Robinson, Pasquale Borrelli, Larissa R. Fleischer, Christine Alewell, Kristof Van Oost, Luca Montanarella, Brigitta Schütt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

283 Citations (Scopus)


Human activity and related land use change are the primary cause of accelerated soil erosion, which has substantial implications for nutrient and carbon cycling, land productivity and in turn, worldwide socio-economic conditions. Here we present an unprecedentedly high resolution (250 × 250 m) global potential soil erosion model, using a combination of remote sensing, GIS modelling and census data. We challenge the previous annual soil erosion reference values as our estimate, of 35.9 Pg yr-1 of soil eroded in 2012, is at least two times lower. Moreover, we estimate the spatial and temporal effects of land use change between 2001 and 2012 and the potential offset of the global application of conservation practices. Our findings indicate a potential overall increase in global soil erosion driven by cropland expansion. The greatest increases are predicted to occur in Sub-Saharan Africa, South America and Southeast Asia. The least developed economies have been found to experience the highest estimates of soil erosion rates.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-13
Number of pages13
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Chemistry(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Physics and Astronomy(all)

Fingerprint Dive into the research topics of 'An assessment of the global impact of 21st century land use change on soil erosion'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

  • Cite this

    Ferro, V., Bagarello, V., Lugato, E., Panagos, P., Meusburger, K., Ballabio, C., Modugno, S., Robinson, D. A., Borrelli, P., Fleischer, L. R., Alewell, C., Oost, K. V., Montanarella, L., & Schütt, B. (2017). An assessment of the global impact of 21st century land use change on soil erosion. Nature Communications, 8, 1-13.