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Soil Themes > Soil Erosion > Erosion in Alps (ClimChAlp)

Project “ClimChAlp” : Climate Change, Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Alpine Space

The Joint Research Centre (SOIL Action of the Land Management and Natural Hazards Unit) collaborates with the CRASL - Universita Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Sede di Brescia in the context of the ClimChAlp project. This project – “Climate Change, Impacts and Adaptation Strategies in the Alpine Space” - interlinks 22 partners from all partner states of the alpine space programme to collaborate in the field of climate change and affected fields such as risk prevention and spatial planning.

The main objective of the project is to develop concrete transnational strategies and first measures how to react on the impacts of climate change in respect of spatial planning and risk prevention in the entire Alpine Space. From all work packages of the project, a synthesis report for political decision makers and administration will be derived.

More information you will find on: and Alpine Space Programme

Role of SOIL Action (Land Management & Natural Hazards Unit) in ClimChAlp Project

The SOIL Action has focused in Soil Erosion in the Alps and in collaboration with ClimChAlp Project Partners will:

Maps - Data

The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was applied to the whole alpine space, with a specific setting on mountain areas for slope and rain erosivity parameters. The following 3 maps have been produced:

The maps in various formats and resolutions may be downloaded by the general public. The source data for the map (in GIS format) are not publicly available due to copyright issues (The JRC does not own the data).

Goals and key questions for the Hearing of experts

Dr. Luca Montanarella (Action Leader) of SOIL has contributed to the Hearing of Experts regarding soil erosion in the Alps with the attached presentation. He has also addressed the following specific questions:

1. Measures to counteract soil erosion in the Alps

Soil erosion in the Alps is a well recognized problem, identified as a priority are for action within the soil protocol to the Alpine Convention. Soil erosion in the Alps is submitted to different drivers then in intensive agricultural areas of lowland in Europe. Steep slopes as well as limited agricultural land use characterize the Alpine environment. Since main drivers for soil erosion are slope, soil type, land cover and rainfall patterns, it is clear that in the Alpine space the steep slopes make the soil cover particularly susceptible to intensive erosion phenomena.

While traditional land management, including appropriate agricultural practices as well as good forestry practices have extensively protected the Alps from accelerated erosion in the past, today's land abandonment as well as forest mismanagement has dramatically in-creased the frequency of intensive soil erosion events. Additionally, the increased frequency of extreme rainfall events due to climate change has further exacerbated the phenomena.

Measures to counteract soil erosion in the Alps should therefore focus on maintaining an adequate forest cover, particularly on those soils that have a soil erosion potential; good farming practices applied to farmland, particularly reducing phenomena of overgrazing and unnecessary deep ploughing on sloping land and finally, the proper management of surface water runoff, specially in build-up areas

2. Minimizing the residual risk of soil erosion

Erosion is a natural process that is fully acceptable if kept at natural levels. Therefore a re-sidual risk of erosion is not a problem, on the contrary, can be considered as an indicator of a well balanced and properly functioning system.

3. Future work on soil erosion

A comprehensive assessment of soil erosion in the Alps is still missing. First we should focus future activities in collecting the relevant information layers for such an assessment. These should include a high resolution digital elevation model, detailed soil information, real time vegetation cover information and rainfall intensity and frequency. Once these information lay-ers will be available for the entire alpine space, a specific soil erosion model, adapted to alpine conditions, should be developed and implemented. This will deliver a updated soil erosion risk map for the alps allowing for the planning and implementation of appropriate mitigation measures. Crucial will be the availability of proper validation data, which could be made available by the collection of sediment deposition data from alpine small water reservoirs at catchments level.

4. Interaction of organizational measures, emergency management, technical measures and non-technical (ecological) measures

Combating soil erosion requires a close interaction of many actors and stakeholders at different levels. Starting from the local rural population up to the policymakers at the level of the Alpine Convention there must be a clear understanding of the importance and extent of the problem. Implementing mitigation measures on the ground will then be possible at catch-ments level, which is the only meaningful unit for intervention against soil erosion.

5. Scenarios for future action

Most climate change scenarios agree on the increased frequency of extreme rainfall events in the Alpine area as well as a substantial reduction of the ice and snow cover during the win-ter period. It is to be expected that these factors, combined with an increased human impact on the alpine environment, will lead on the short term towards a massive increase of soil ero-sion phenomena in the Alps. Early identification of the major risk areas may help in prevent-ing further disasters. In this sense the newly adopted Soil Thematic Strategy of the European Commission may provide a valid legislative instrument in order to reverse the negative trend of soil erosion in the Alps, at least for the EU member states.


ClimChAlp Project and Rhone-Alps Region has provided interesting documentation about the Natural Conditions in the Alps (Temperature, Precipitation / Humidity, Air Pressure/ Wind, Ground humidity / Surface running water, Snow cover, Underground water runoff, Permafrost, Glaciers, Forest and vegetation, Torrential events, Debris flows / channel-type mudflows, River floods, Avalanches, Wet snow avalanches, Fresh snow avalanches, Mass movements, Superficial landslides, Deep landslides, Rock falls, Glacial Lake Outburst Flooding, Serac fall, Tempest, Forest fire)

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European Commission - Joint Research Centre
Institute for Environment and Sustainability
Marc Van Liedekerke(tel. +39-0332-785179)
Panos Panagos (tel. +39-0332-785574)