Soil erosion risk for farming futures: novel model application and validation to an agricultural landscape in southern England

Cat Hudson, Philip J. Soar

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Increasingly, agricultural land managers are seeking new approaches for understanding the potential challenges posed by sediment connectivity across catchments from source to sink, and implications for delivery of ecosystem services determined by the condition of natural capital assets. Connectivity indices have been frequently applied in the calculation of risk in spatial and temporal assessment frameworks, and tools which facilitate rapid modelling and mapping of soil erosion risk using broad-scale environmental data are therefore of considerable interest. One such indicative tool is SCIMAP (Sensitive Catchment Integrated Mapping and Analysis Platform), which highlights where sediment runoff is likely to occur and be delivered to a watercourse by simulating the generation of saturation-excess overland flow. In this paper, we examine the utility of SCIMAP for exploring the changing nature of soil erosion risk as a function of land use change in the lower Rother catchment in West Sussex, southern England through the formulation of a suite of foresight scenarios informed by knowledge of historical land cover conditions and current management practice. The study area has previously been investigated at the field scale in terms of locating and quantifying sources of erosion and areas where in-stream sedimentation manifests. Output risk values from all simulations were quantified, mapped and compared to highlight areas of greatest/lowest risk. An area was identified immediately north of the main Rother channel that consistently exhibited greatest risk across each land cover scenario. We explore (i) the spatial and temporal variation in modelled risk and (ii) the utility value of SCIMAP for agricultural land-managers and policy-makers in generating robust risk estimates of soil erosion and in-stream sedimentation, and challenges with model verification in a foresight context.
Original languageEnglish
Article number115050
Number of pages15
JournalEnvironmental Research
Early online date24 Dec 2022
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2023


  • Land cover
  • Soil erosion
  • Sedimentation
  • Scenario modeling
  • Sediment connectivity

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