The extent of soil erosion

Global land degradation, as estimated by GLASOD
The GLASOD estimate of global land degradation: note that this includes all forms of soil degradation, not just erosion. (From UNEP-GRID)

Despite the global nature of the problem of erosion by water, even today we do not have good information regarding the global extent of erosion by water. Data on the severity of erosion is also often limited.

The GLASOD study estimated that around 15 per cent of the Earth's ice-free land surface is afflicted by all forms of land degradation. Of this, accelerated soil erosion by water is responsible for about 56 per cent and wind erosion is responsible for about 28 per cent.

This means that the area affected by water erosion is, very roughly, around 11 million square km., and the area affected by wind erosion is around 5.5 million square km.

The area affected by tillage erosion is currently unknown.

Because soil is formed slowly, it is essentially a finite resource. The severity of the global erosion problem is only now becoming widely appreciated.

Dave Favis-Mortlock, March 2005

For more information on the extent of erosion: