Investigations of impacts of climate change on soil erosion by water

Background and Goals

In connection with the German Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change (DAS), regional statements on the vulnerability of soil to climate changes are required to develop a perspective on long-term adaptation strategies. In addition, for current federal and EU-wide environmental reporting and the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive, information on the status and the risk of soil is required, which will form the basis for prevention and security against erosion. In order to assess the current and – in light of projected climate changes –likely evolution of the potential and use-related soil erosion by water, the Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) initiated the research project “Investigations of impacts of climate change on soil erosion by water”, which is funded by the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).


  • Trans-regional statements on the consequences of the climate change on coastal erosion through water. For this purpose: 1. Redefinition/weighting of the rainfall erosivity factor (factor R) of the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) with regard to the expected increase in torrential rain events. 2. Recalculation of the nationwide erosion risk potential as well as the use-related risks.
  • Designation of particularly vulnerable areas with regard to the future development of rain erosivity.
  • Derivation of recommendations/action strategies for land cultivation from the perspective of the climate change.

Content time


Research area/region

  • Germany

Steps in the process of adaptation to climate change

Step 1: Understand and describe climate change

Approach and results 

Regional climate model WETTREG, reference period from DWD data (German Meteorological Service). Time series analyses of extreme rainfall events on a daily basis.

Parameter (climate signals)
  • Extreme precipitation (incl. hail, snow)
Further times 

1971 - 2010;
2011 - 2040;
2041 - 2070;
2071 - 2100

Step 2a: Identify and assess risks - climate effects and impact

Approach and results 

Due to the projected climate changes for the 21st century, erosion hazard impacts are expected in the future as a result of the change in (strong) rainfall patterns and land cover due to an adaptation of the growing seasons of agricultural crops to climatic conditions. For the soil and water conservation, negative consequences can be assumed a result of increased erosion hazard on agricultural land due to the expected increase in erosive rainfall events – along with increased soil erosion, loss of soil function and an increase in nonpoint source pollution in the water. The change in land cover can also lead to an increase or reduction of the risk of erosion.

The study results have shown that the risk of erosion by water in Germany is already problem that must be assigned increased importance under changing climate conditions.

Step 2b: Identify and assess risks - Vulnerability, risks and chances

Urgency and priorization of adaptation needs 

From the research side there is still a critical need for action to improve erosion monitoring and the further methodological development of erosion modeling.

Step 3: Develop and compare measures

Measures and/or strategies 

Development of recommendations/action strategies for land cultivation from the perspective of the climate change.

Objectives: Statements on how to avoid or compensate the calculated, future soil erosion risk through water with adapted usage scenarios (crop rotation systems and crop types).

Time horizon
  • 2011–2040 (near future)
  • 2036–2065
  • 2051–2080 (far future)
  • 2071–2100 (far future)


Funding / Financing 

BMU / UBA im Rahmen des Umweltforschungsplans

Project management 



Geoflux GbR, Mitteldeutsches Institut für angewandte Standortkunde und Bodenschutz (MISB - Institute for Applied Site Ecology and Soil Protection of Central Germany).

Project advisory board:

  • University of Hohenheim
  • Bavarian State Research Center for Agriculture
  • LBEG Lower Saxony
  • Chamber of Agriculture Lower Saxony
  • LLFG Saxony-Anhalt
  • LfUG Saxony
  • BGR
  • ZALF

FG II 2.7 Soil condition, soil monitoring
Wörlitzer Platz 1
06844 Dessau-Roßlau

jeannette.mathews @
frank.glante @

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Fields of action:
 agriculture  soil