Climate change impacts on soil erosion in Midwest United States with changes in crop management

Author: O’Neal, M.R.; Nearing, M.A.; Vining, R.C.; Southworth, J.; Pfeifer, R.A.

Description: This study investigates potential changes in erosion rates in the Midwestern United States under climate change, including the adaptation of crop management to climate change. Previous studies of erosion under climate change have not taken into account farmer choices of crop rotations or planting dates, which will adjust to compensate for climate change. In this study, changes in management were assigned based on previous studies of crop yield, optimal planting date, and most profitable rotations under climate change in the Midwestern United States. Those studies predicted future shifts from maize and wheat to soybeans based on price and yield advantages to soybeans. In the results of our simulations, for 10 of 11 regions of the study area runoff increased from + 10% to + 310%, and soil loss increased from + 33% to + 274%, in 2040-2059 relative to 1990-1999. Soil loss changes were more variable compared to studies that did not take into account changes in management. Increased precipitation and decreasing cover from temperature-stressed maize were important factors in the results. The soil erosion model appeared to underestimate the impact of change in crop type, particularly to soybeans, meaning that erosion increases could be even higher than simulated. This research shows that future crop management changes due to climate and economics can affect the magnitude of erosional impacts beyond that which would be predicted from direct climate change alone. Prediction of future soil erosion can help in the management of valuable cropland and suggest the need for continually changing soil conservation strategies.

Subject headings: Soil erosion; Climate change; Runoff; Land management; Agriculture; Water Erosion Prediction Project

Publication year: 2005

Journal or book title: Catena

Volume: 61

Issue: 2-3

Pages: 165-184

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Type: Journal Article

Serial number: 899