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Policy implications of multiple concurrent soil erosion processes in European farmland


Soil erosion is a serious threat to soil functions leading to land productivity decline and multiple off-site effects. Here we show, using a multi-model approach, the spatial risk of soil erosion by water, wind, tillage and harvesting and where the co-occurrence of these different processes is observed. Moreover, we analysed where these locations of multiple erosion co-occurrence are likely to intersect with the projected increase of dry/wet climate conditions. Of the ~110 million hectares (M ha) of arable land in the European Union, our estimates show that 43 M ha are vulnerable to a single driver of erosion, 15.6 M ha to two drivers and 0.81 M ha to three or more drivers. About 3.2 M ha of arable land are vulnerable to the possible interaction of increased flood, drought, water and wind erosion. We contend that this set of predictions serves as a basis for developing an efficient stratified monitoring network and informing targeted mitigation strategies under the Common Agricultural Policy 2023–2027. The road to the sustainable, carbon-neutral and biodiversity-friendly system of agriculture advocated for in the EU Green Deal goes through a thematic strategy for soil protection from multiple concurrent erosion processes.

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Fig. 1: Potential multi-process soil displacement modelled for the EU member states and UK arable land.
Fig. 2: Changes in future water and wind erosion vulnerability in the European Union and United Kingdom.
Fig. 3: Flow diagram of the conservation scenarios and their effects on the soil displacement by water-erosion estimates.

Data availability

All data supporting the findings of this study are available within the article text and Supplementary Information or are freely available at the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC), the institutional soil data repository of the European Commission Joint Research Centre ( Additional higher-resolution maps (GeoTIFF format) will be made available via ESDAC.

Code availability

Code and programmes can be retrieved from the European Soil Data Centre (ESDAC) ( and from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.


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The modelling framework of this study is part of the research activities promoted by the EU Soil Observatory (EUSO)–Soil Erosion Working Group. We thank the European Commission and the Joint Research Centre for providing data and logistic support. Funding for P.B. was provided by the EcoSSSoil Project, Korea Environmental Industry & Technology Institute (KEITI) (grant number 2019002820004). Funding for D.A.R. was provided by a Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) Knowledge Exchange fellowship (grant number NE/N005309/1) and the Natural Environment Research Council award number NE/R016429/1 as part of the UK Status, Change and Projections of the Environment (UK–ScaPE) Programme Delivering National Capability.

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Authors and Affiliations



P.B., D.A.R. and P.P. led the work and designed the study. P.B., C.B., P.P. and E.L. performed the computational steps and analysis. D.A.R. and P.B. wrote the initial draft of the manuscript; all other remaining authors made substantial contributions to the study design and methodology, provided data and helped improve the manuscript. P.B. was the research leading author, and D.A.R. and P.P. were the supervising authors. All other contributing authors are listed in alphabetical order.

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Correspondence to Pasquale Borrelli.

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Borrelli, P., Panagos, P., Alewell, C. et al. Policy implications of multiple concurrent soil erosion processes in European farmland. Nat Sustain 6, 103–112 (2023).

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