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Addressing the on-site costs of soil erosion: Modelling the economic aspects of our natural capital

According to FAO statistics, 99.7% of the human food is coming from land. Soil erosion is the major threat to soil, removing organic matter and important nutrients, preventing vegetation growth and overall biodiversity (Borrelli et al., 2017). In particular, soil erosion changes the physical, chemical and biological soil characteristics causing a drop in potential agricultural productivity and raising concerns on food security especially in a context of growing world population (Pimentel 2007;Graves et al., 2015; FAO, I., 2015). This originates on-site costs directly affecting the farming land and paid by the farmers, through loss of fertile land. It also originates off-site costs, paid by the society, mainly occurring away from the farm, which are the consequence of sedimentation, flooding, landslides and water eutrophication (Telles et al., 2011,2013). The consequences of soil erosion for the society might be severe. According to Kibblewhite et al. (2012), erosion affects 115 million ha in Europe which is around 12% of the total land area. The impact assessment included in the proposed Soil Thematic Strategy estimated the cost of soil degradation. Based on estimations done in 13 countries including the major Member States where erosion occurs, the cost of soil erosion was ranging from 0.7 to 14.0 Billion Euros (EC, 2006). The cost of soil erosion can be substantive also outside the EU. According to Pimentel et al. (1995) soil erosion can cost $44 billion (on site plus off-site) each year in the USA. Pimentel et al. (1995) also estimated the on-site costs of water erosion in around 16 billion US dollars per year worldwide. In the end, soil erosion is perceived as potential threat to development: Land Degradation Neutrality (LDN) is included in the recent international policy agreements (UNCCD, UNFCCC, CBD) and is also highlighted in Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (Akhtar-Schuster et al., 2016).