EU Science Hub

Mapping monthly rainfall erosivity in Europe

Rainfall erosivity as a dynamic factor of soil loss by water erosion is modelled intra-annually for the first time at European scale. The development of Rainfall Erosivity Database (REDES) and its 2015 update with the extension to monthly component allowed to develop monthly and seasonal R-factor maps and assess rainfall erosivity both spatially and temporally. During winter months, significant rainfall erosivity is present only in part of the Mediterranean countries. A sudden increase of erosivity occurs all over Europe in May and the highest values are registered during summer months. Starting from September, R-factor has a decreasing trend. The mean rainfall erosivity in summer is almost 4 times higher (315 MJ mm ha-1 h-1) compared to winter (87 MJ mm ha-1 h-1). The Cubist model has been selected among various statistical models to perform the spatial interpolation due to its excellent performance, ability to model non-linearity and interpretability. The monthly prediction is an order more difficult than the annual one as it is limited by the number of covariates and, for consistency, the sum of all months have to be close to annual erosivity. The performance of the Cubist models proved to be generally high, resulting in R2 values between 0.40 and 0.64 in cross-validation. The obtained maps show an increasing gradient occurring during the year from West to East of Europe corresponding to an increase in continuality. The maps also show a clear delineation of areas with different erosivity seasonal patterns, whose spatial outline was evidenced by cluster analysis. The spatio-temporal mapping of rainfall erosivity allows to identify the months and the areas with highest risk of soil loss and where conservation measures should be applied.