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Wind erosion risk mapped in first ever pan-European assessment

Soil erosion by wind is, to a certain extent, a natural process that has always played a role in shaping the land. However, human activities which affect soil are accelerating wind erosion, particularly some agricultural practices, such as overgrazing of pasture or leaving cultivated land to lie fallow for extended periods. Erosion removes the soil richest in organic matter and nutrients and causes permanent damage to the land, which makes it difficult to farm in future. It can also affect built infrastructure, for example, if soil blows onto railway tracks.

This study assessed the susceptibility of land to wind erosion across the EU-28, plus Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro, Norway, Serbia and Switzerland. Risk was assessed based on three important factors that lead to erosion:

1) Climate - particularly wind speed and factors which increase topsoil moisture content (as more moisture reduces erosion risk).
2) Soil type - the researchers calculated the proportion of soil that is erodible, based on factors including soil and clay content.
3) Land use - the researchers calculated the percentage of land covered by vegetation and the ‘roughness’ of the land, as plants and rough terrain reduce erosion risk.