Chapter

Long Term Hillslope and Fluvial System Modelling

Volume 101 of the series Lecture Notes in Earth Sciences pp 231-239

Date:

Quantification of past soil erosion and land use / land cover changes in Germany

  • Hans-Rudolf BorkAffiliated withÖkologie-Zentrum der Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel
  • , Andreas LangAffiliated withFysische en Regionale Geografie, K.U. Leuven

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Abstract

Knowledge on land use changes dating back to the period of Neolithic to High Middle Ages in Germany is still rather limited. Although numerous local archaeological and palynological records exist, regional scale reconstructions are rare. Information on past soil erosion available from case studies on soil translocation and soil formation has also only rarely been regionalised. Here, we review approaches aiming at integrating results from case studies at different locations, in order to establish a regional history of soil erosion in prehistoric and historic Germany.

It can be shown that soil erosion is not a modern problem. During Neolithic through to medieval times, soil erosion occurred more frequently during phases of stronger human impact. The oldest soil erosion derived sediments were deposited in early Neolithic times. Widespread soil erosion is found for the Bronze Age, Iron Age and Roman periods, with maximum rates occurring in the medieval period. This indicates that soil erosion during these periods was triggered mainly by the intensity of land use, suggesting that this was the critical factor for the landscape’s sensitivity to erosion. For the later medieval and modern periods - when the area used as arable land reached more or less its present extent - maxima in soil erosion can be associated with high magnitude rainfall events. Extreme soil loss occurred during the first half of the 14th century and - less pronounced - in the second half of the 18th century.