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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Measurements and Models of Soil Loss Rates

Authors
item Nearing, Mark
item Romkens, Mathias
item Norton, Lloyd
item Stott, Diane
item Rhoton, Fred
item Laflen, J - PURDUE UNIVERSITY
item Flanagan, Dennis
item Alonso, Carlos
item Bingner, Ronald
item Dabney, Seth

Submitted to: Science
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 3, 2000
Publication Date: November 17, 2000
Citation: Nearing, M.A., Romkens, M.J., Norton, L.D., Stott, D.E., Rhoton, F.E., Laflen, J.M., Flanagan, D.C., Alonso, C.V., Bingner, R.L., Dabney, S.M. 2000. Measurements and models of soil loss rates. Science. 290(5495):1300-1301.

Interpretive Summary: This paper may have important implications for soil conservation in this country. A recent article published in the Policy Forum section of Science Magazine makes some strong statements regarding the erosional status of soils in the United States. The statements in the article basically suggest that estimates of soil erosion rates are questionable, and that the erosion problem in this country is generally overstated. Since Science is a highly respected publication of the scientific community, and often is quoted in the popular press, the USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory and USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory feel that it is important to respond. The scientific evidence is clear that soil erosion continues to be a real and serious threat to the long-term sustainability of American agriculture. The fact that we have made substantive gains in conserving soil in the US since the 1930s does not mean that we should discontinue conservation efforts. Not does it mean that we have solved the erosion problem in this country. Our letter to the editor disputes many of the claims made in the previous Science article. We feel that our response may have important and direct impact on the policy of conservation efforts in this country, and that it is extremely important to the long- term sustainability of American agriculture.

Technical Abstract: In their recent policy forum article of July 14, 2000, Drs. Trimble and Crosson discuss sediment budgets and call attention to the essential distinction, and large quantitative difference, between upland soil erosion and downstream sediment delivery. As the primary water erosion research institutions within the USDA, and home of the Universal Soil Loss Equation, the Revised USLE, and other USDA erosion prediction technologies, the staffs of the USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory and USDA-ARS National Sedimentation Laboratory feel it necessary and appropriate to respond to the article in question. The scientific evidence is overwhelmingly clear that erosion continues to be a threat to the long-term viability of our soil resource. A certain portion of our nation's soils continues to erode at rates in excess of rates of soil formation, even if a significant fraction of the sediment generated from that erosion is not directly entering our nation's waterways. The reduction of upland soil erosion rates may not immediately and proportionally impact downstream sediment loads for reasons discussed in our article, but we suggest that this does not imply that our society should therefore continue to fill channel sediment reserves so that our children can deal tomorrow with the sediment we generate today.

Last Modified: 12/20/2014
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