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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2012

Soil erosion in Nordic countries

Ulen, Barbro; Bechmann, Marianne; Oygarden, Lilian; Kyllmar, Katarina


In Europe, water, wind and tillage erosion are common threats to soil quality (Verheijen, this issue). In the Nordic countries the main problem of erosion is generally that phosphorus (P), pesticides and other water pollutants attached to eroded material are lost to recipient waters. Erosion is monitored from plots, fields, streams and rivers (Boardman & Poesen, 2006). The amount of soil erosion measured Iin a number of small agricultural catchments of comparable size dominated by silty/clay-clay soils in Norway and Sweden the amount of soil erosion measured varies largely spatially (Table 1). The range measured at the outlet of the small streams varies between 0.014-1.76 t ha-1 year-1. In general, the spatial and variation between different the catchments is greater (varying with a factor of more than hundred) than the variation between years (varying with a factor of ten). The corresponding total P losses vary between 0.12-21.7 kg ha-1 year-1 (Table 1). In the Swedish catchments, high P losses can be related to factors such as clay and clay loam soils, medium to high precipitation and large proportions of annual crops in the catchments (Kyllmar et al., 2006). At the plot scale, Skøien & Børresen (this issue) found that total P losses are closely correlated to soil losses, whereas Ulén et al. (this issue) found that particulate P concentrations can be reasonably well predicted from suspended sediment (SS) concentrations above base flow in a Swedish catchment. Land levelling has caused high erosion from arable fields in Norway. Roughly recalculated to arable land based on source apportionment, Norwegian studies indicate that soil losses from catchments with artificially levelled arable land may be even higher than 2 t ha-1 year-1 (Bechmann et al., 2008; Bogen et al., 1993). At the field scale, monitoring of soil losses in surface and subsurface runoff from a land levelled arable field in Norway showed variations from 0.09 - 3 t soil ha-1 year-1 (Bechmann, this issue). At the plot scale, measurements of soil losses showed even higher values, up to 7.6 t ha-1 year-1 (Lundekvam, 2007; Skøien & Børresen, this issue) The tolerable rate of erosion for both agricultural production and water quality can be set to approximately 1 t ha-1yr-1 (Verheijen, this issue). Standard potential erosion risk in Norway is defined for areas with the traditional autumn ploughing. Erosion risk below 500 kg ha-1yr-1 is defined as low, from 500 to 2000 kg ha-1yr-1 as medium, from 2000 to 8000 kg ha-1yr-1 as high and above 8000 kg ha-1yr-1 as very high.

Published in

Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B - Soil and Plant Science
2012, Volume: 62, number: Supplement 2, pages: 176-184
Publisher: Taylor & Francis: STM, Behavioural Science and Public Health Titles

    SLU Authors

    • Sustainable Development Goals

      SDG15 Life on land

      UKÄ Subject classification

      Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
      Agricultural Science

      Publication Identifiers


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