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Documenting soil erosion rates on agricultural land in England and Wales - SP0411

Description
There is currently a general lack of reliable information on rates of soil loss from agricultural land in the UK for use in the development, calibration and validation of national scale models for predicting soil loss and sediment delivery from agricultural land. Such models are increasingly required to assess on-site soil loss and thus the longer-term sustainability of the national soil resource, to assess the off-site impact of soil erosion and potential sediment delivery to streams and to underpin the development of reliable models of P loss from agricultural land, since much of the P loss will be associated with sediment mobilisation and transfer. To address this deficiency, there is an urgent need to assemble empirical information on rates of soil loss from a representative range of soil types and terrain types under different land use and land management in England and Wales. Traditional approaches to assembling such data involve many deficiencies and limitations, including reliability, cost, spatial representativeness and the need for extended periods of measurement. The use of environmental radionuclides and more particularly caesium-137 (Cs-137) offers an effective alternative means of assembling such data. The Cs-137 approach has now been validated and extensively used by the applicant in studies in both the UK and overseas and offers a unique means of assembling retrospective information on longer-term average erosion rates (i.e. 40 years) on the basis of a single site visit. However, there remains an important need to develop and test protocols for extending the use of the approach to an essentially reconnaissance level that can be applied at the national scale. The primary objective of the proposed 2-year project is to pilot the extension of the use of Cs-137 to a reconnaissance level applicable at the national scale and to commence the assembly of a data-base comprising medium-term estimates of both gross and net soil loss for a representative range of soil textures and terrain types within England and Wales by producing a data base for Southern England. This data-base, when further extended, could afford a basis for developing a national-scale assessment of soil erosion and a national indicator for soil erosion. Both of the latter have a clear policy relevance.
Objective
The project has four main objectives viz.
1) To develop protocols for using the Cs-137 technique as a reconnaissance tool for assembling national scale information on rates of both gross and net soil loss from agricultural land.
2) To test and ‘validate’ the protocols developed in (1) above.
3) To use the protocols developed in (1) above to commence the assembly of a national data base on rates of gross and net soil loss from agricultural land characterised by different soil types, terrain characteristics and land use, by producing a data base for Southern England.
4) To explore the potential for extrapolating data of the type assembled in (3) above to support national scale soil erosion assessments.
Project Documents
• Final Report : Documenting soil erosion rates on agricultural land in England and Wales   (5140k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2003

To: 2005

Cost: £214,991
Contractor / Funded Organisations
University - Exeter
Keywords
Agricultural Land              
Environmental Protection              
Erosion              
Land              
Soil              
Fields of Study
Soil Protection