Extent, frequency and rate of water erosion of arable land in Britain - benefits and challenges for modelling

R Evans, A L Collins, Ian D L Foster, R J Rickson, S G Anthony, T Brewer, L Deeks, J P Newell-Price, I G Truckell, Y Zhang

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticlepeer-review


Soil erosion on arable land in lowland Britain has been the subject of field-based surveys, which have assessed the volumes or masses of soil transported in channels across farmers’ fields. These surveys provide a unique database on the extent, frequency and rates of soil loss by water. This study synthesizes the key findings from those surveys and underscores the implications for soil erosion modelling. Rill erosion occurs in a small number of fields (consistently <10%). Over ~5 yr, a considerable proportion of the farmed landscape will suffer from rill erosion, but mostly in fields that erode only once. Mean erosion rates for lowland arable landscapes are much less than mean erosion rates for individual eroded fields within that landscape. These observations pose important challenges for modelling. Rainfall and cropping vary from year to year so that risk of wash or rill erosion in the same field also varies. Due to the infrequent occurrence of rill erosion, loss rates of eroding fields cannot be spatially extrapolated across the landscape, except in the case of wash erosion which takes place a number of times in almost all fields every year. A consistent pattern of increasing wash erosion, in terms of spatial extent, is emerging in lowland Britain. Resulting losses of fine silt and clay-sized particles are small in amount and possibly insignificant in terms of loss of soil as a resource, but have significant implications for contaminant concentrations and pollution of water courses.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-161
JournalSoil Use and Management
Issue numberSupp 1
Early online date10 Sep 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016


  • Water erosion
  • rill erosion
  • wash erosion
  • field-based assessment
  • modelling


Dive into the research topics of 'Extent, frequency and rate of water erosion of arable land in Britain - benefits and challenges for modelling'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this