Soil Erosion Use Case proposes to integrate rainfall datasets, driving estimates of rainfall erosivity, and non-climate datasets to assess soil susceptibility to water erosion, leveraging empirical approaches, such as the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and similar equations. With the goal of ensuring the maximum homogeneity and consistency, Copernicus services and space components are chosen as main data source. In particular, rainfall time series coming from climate re-analysis and interpolation of observations will be extracted from the Copernicus Climate Change Service. Similarly, land-based parameters, such as elevation or the intra annual cycle of land fractional cover, will be retrieved from the Copernicus Land Monitoring Service or by extracting vegetation indices by satellite imagery (e.g. Sentinels).
Moving from an existing pilot available within the Copernicus Climate Change Service, CMCC aims to produce an updated, high-resolution and cutting-edge service for the evaluation of soil erosion in Italy, untapping the potential of, on one hand, the most updated EO data, and on the other hand, the tools provided by the EO4EU platform. For instance, new climate re-analysis data at higher spatial resolution will be utilized as main rainfall input, and AI algorithms will provide insights on the erosive power of short-duration rainfall extremes. The domain chosen as pilot area is Italy, among the European countries most affected by rainfall-induced erosion hazards (together with Slovenia, Greece, Spain, Austria, Romania, where erosion impacts more than 10% of agricultural lands), involving potential users from the land management and infrastructure sectors.
Rainfall-induced soil erosion occurs when soil particles are detached, transported and deposited away due to rainfall, runoff, snow melting or irrigation. When soil erosion rate is higher than soil formation rate, the soil becomes depleted and the potential of the land to be used productively is reduced. The direct and indirect economic costs of soil erosion are extremely high, as a variety of sectors are negatively impacted. Soil erosion may lead to a decrease in the yield of agricultural areas, physical damage to cultivated fields and deterioration of water and air quality due to suspended soil particles. As a consequence, reducing soil erosion can provide benefits for several Ecosystem Services like habitats, air quality, water quality and the protection, formation and decontamination of soils and sediments, and secondarily for water quantity. For these reasons, soil erosion has raised great attention at EU level, and reducing soil erosion has synergies with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), in particular with the goals regarding “Food security” and “Life on land”, and, in cascade, with the SDGs generically related to poverty, water, and climate actions, and finally also for health and wellbeing.
Through the developed service, a plethora of end-users will have information related to water-induced soil erosion for regions of interest. The application will increase awareness and support decisions amongst land management actors and territorial planners on how farming practices, forest management or post-disturbance recovery of soil (i.e., after floods and fires) can contribute to mitigating the hazards associated with soil erosion and consequently decrease physical and economic risks. The Use Case can also support climate-informed design and management of infrastructures, ensuring a more robust evaluation of hazards and risks posed by rainfall-induced soil erosion. Soil erosion estimates for future horizons, also provided by the Use Case building on the most updated and fine resolution climate projections, will allow for the design of more resilient infrastructure, as well as an appropriate and climate-informed allocation of investments for maintenance, update and retrofitting.
A preliminary, embryonic-stage service for the evaluation of rainfall-induced soil erosion in Italy is already available as Demo Case (dataset and applications) on the Climate Data Store of the Copernicus Climate Change Service. However, it relies on state-of-the-art and less region-specific empirical methods and data, especially for the quantification of rainfall erosivity, and on low-resolution datasets for the evaluation of soil-related features. The proposed Use Case will provide significant enhancements in the robustness of soil erosion estimates, using novel, cutting-edge approaches, tools and data for all the key parameters of the erosion process.
Through the developed service, a plethora of end-users will gain access to information related to water-induced soil erosion for regions of interest. Focusing first in Italy, the Use Case will involve stakeholders mainly interested in land planning and infrastructure design.