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Impacts of Climate Change on Soil Erosion in the Great Lakes Region

Wang, Lili, Cherkauer, Keith A., Flanagan, Dennis C.
Water 2018 v.10 no.6
General Circulation Models, air temperature, autumn, climate change, cropland, erosion control, funding, grasslands, land management, prediction, risk, soil, soil erosion, soil erosion models, spring, summer, winter, Great Lakes region
Quantifying changes in potential soil erosion under projections of changing climate is important for the sustainable management of land resources, as soil loss estimates will be helpful in identifying areas susceptible to erosion, targeting future erosion control efforts, and/or conservation funding. Therefore, the macro-scale Variable Infiltration Capacity—Water Erosion Prediction Project (VIC-WEPP) soil erosion model was utilized to quantify soil losses under three climate change scenarios (A2, A1B, B1) using projections from three general circulation models (GFDL, PCM, HadCM3) for the Great Lakes region from 2000 to 2100. Soil loss was predicted to decrease throughout three future periods (2030s, 2060s, and 2090s) by 0.4–0.7 ton ha−1 year−1 (4.99–23.2%) relative to the historical period (2000s) with predicted air temperature increases of 0.68–4.34 °C and precipitation increases of 1.74–63.7 mm year−1 (0.23–8.6%). In the forested northern study domain erosion kept increasing by 0.01–0.18 ton ha−1 year−1 over three future periods due to increased precipitation of 9.7–68.3 mm year−1. The southern study domain covered by cropland and grassland had predicted soil loss decreases of 0.01–1.43 ton ha−1 year−1 due to air temperature increases of 1.75–4.79 °C and reduced precipitation in the summer. Fall and winter had greater risks of increased soil loss based on predictions for these two seasons under the A2 scenario, with the greatest cropland soil loss increase due to increased fall precipitation, and combined effects of increases in both precipitation and air temperature in the winter. Fall was identified with higher risks under the A1B scenario, while spring and summer were identified with the greatest risk of increased soil losses under the B1 scenario due to the increases in both precipitation and air temperature.