Soil Erosion under Climate Change: Rates, Implications, and Feedbacks

Soil Erosion Network

Tucson, Arizona, USA
November 17-19, 2003


Global climate has changed notably over the past century: this change is expected to continue in the future. As global and regional temperatures have risen, a more vigorous hydrologic cycle has ensued in many parts of the world. On average, global precipitation is increasing and in many places the intensity of rainstorms has also become greater. However, some regions of the world have become drier, with significant implications for both wind- and water-induced erosion. In many areas the seasonal distributions of rainfall have changed, with significant implications for patterns of vegetation growth and hence for soil erosion.

As well as being affected by shifts in climate, soil erosion can affect climate. Desertification processes are intertwined with soil degradation and vegetation changes. Loss of soil carbon, possibly exacerbated by erosion, releases carbon dioxide into the atmosphere: this contributes further to global warming. Changes in vegetative growth and land use that are driven by accelerated erosion can also influence the hydrologic cycle and hence the climate. Climate and erosion thus are interdependent components of the earth's hydrologic cycle and of our environment.


The theme of this GCTE-SEN (Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems - Soil Erosion Network) meeting is climate change and soil erosion. This includes considerations of rates, processes, impacts, and feedbacks within the context of an interdependent hydrologic system. Both the impacts of climate change on erosion and its feedback to the climate may be addressed, and both wind- and water-induced erosion will be considered. All scientific issues related to the topic are encouraged.

A specific theme of the meeting is evaluation of erosion models for global change studies. To quantify the impacts of future climate change and major land use change upon erosion, we need to identify the most appropriate tools. This is being addressed in the third stage of the GCTE-SEN comparison of erosion models. The models will be run using common datasets which include a number of scenarios for future climate and land use. Participants are encouraged to contact the meeting organizers to learn more about participating in the model comparison exercise.

The program will include two days of meetings and a day touring the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed in Tombstone, AZ.