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The participation of agricultural stakeholders in assessing regional vulnerability of cropland to soil water erosion in Austria

Abstract

Scientists increasingly engage with stakeholders in order to develop more acceptable and applicable solutions particularly for climate change impact, adaptation, and vulnerability assessments. We present methodology, results, and experiences of a participation process in a regional soil water erosion vulnerability assessment in Austria. A peer group consisting of agricultural extension specialists, administration, and scientists identified the impacts of uncertain future precipitation on soil water erosion and the effectiveness of relevant soil conservation measures as the most crucial knowledge gap. We applied the bio-physical process model Environmental Policy Integrated Climate to simulate potential sediment yields using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation methodology and crop yields to calculate gross margins. The simulations have been performed for five climate change scenarios until 2040 and three alternative crop management practices. A heterogeneous expanded stakeholder group provided knowledge on regional crop production and management and thus contributed to a first validation of the model input data. Model results indicate an increase in severely erosion-prone cropland by 76 to 135 % with higher precipitation sums for 2040, on average. Furthermore, reduced tillage and cultivating winter cover crops have been identified as effective adaptation measures reducing mean sediment loss between 7 and 31 %, on average. A peer group validated model output with respect to relevance, plausibility, and usability of results and confirmed the usefulness of the results to inform the public debate on regional climate change impacts, adaptation, and vulnerability in agriculture.

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Acknowledgments

This research has been supported by the research projects ‘RIVAS—Regional Integrated Vulnerability Assessment for Austria’ and ‘CAFEE—Climate change in agriculture and forestry: an integrated assessment of mitigation and adaptation measures in Austria’ funded by the Austrian Climate and Energy Fund within the Austrian Climate Research Programme as well as by the Doctoral School of Sustainable Development at the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna. We are especially thankful to the RIVAS project partners Wolfgang Lexer and Patrick Scherhaufer, the regional stakeholders and experts who have participated and shared valuable knowledge and insights as well as three anonymous reviewers.

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Mitter, H., Kirchner, M., Schmid, E. et al. The participation of agricultural stakeholders in assessing regional vulnerability of cropland to soil water erosion in Austria. Reg Environ Change 14, 385–400 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0506-7

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Keywords

  • Agricultural vulnerability assessment
  • Stakeholder participation
  • Climate change impacts
  • Soil water erosion
  • RUSLE
  • EPIC