Policy ForumLAND USE

U.S. Soil Erosion Rates--Myth and Reality

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Science  14 Jul 2000:
Vol. 289, Issue 5477, pp. 248-250
DOI: 10.1126/science.289.5477.248

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No problem of resource or environmental management can be rationally addressed until its true space and time dimensions are known. The limitations of the universal soil loss equation and the wind erosion equation are such that we do not seem to have a truly informed idea of how much soil erosion is occurring in this country, let alone of the processes of sediment movement and deposition. The uncritical use of models is unacceptable as science and unacceptable as a basis for national policy. A comprehensive national system of monitoring soil erosion and consequent downstream sediment movement and/or blowing dust is critical. The costs would be significant; nevertheless, they would reflect efforts better focused on achieving better management of the United States' land and water resources.