Skip to main content

Desertification and Soil Erosion

Part of the Handbook of Global Environmental Pollution book series (EGEP,volume 1)


Global land area affected is estimated at 1,054 million hectares (Mha) by water erosion, 545 Mha by wind erosion, and 3.5 billion ha by land degradation. In the USA, cultivated cropland area affected by water erosion was estimated at 152 Mha in 1982 and 124 Mha in 2007. The decline in erosion in the USA over 25-year period is attributed to adoption of conservation tillage and implementation of the Conservation Reserves Program. Erosion adversely affects agronomic productivity on-site and water quality and gaseous emission off-site. Adverse effects of erosion on soils with root-restrictive layer(s) at shallow depth can drastically reduce crop yields and aggravate the effects of extreme events such as drought. Conversion to restorative land use and adoption of conservation-effective practices can reduce the risks of soil erosion, improve soil and water quality, increase soil and ecosystem carbon budget, and adapt to and mitigate the abrupt climate change.


This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution.

Buying options

USD   29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
USD   399.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Hardcover Book
USD   499.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Durable hardcover edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Learn about institutional subscriptions


  • Aune J, Lal R (1998) Agricultural productivity in the tropics and critical limits of properties of Oxisols, Ultisols and Alfisols. Trop Agric (Trinidad) 74:96–103

    Google Scholar 

  • Bai ZG, Dent DL, Olsson L, Schaepman ME (2008) Proxy global assessment of land degradation. Soil Use Manag 24(3):233–234

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Basson G (2010) Sedimentation and sustainable use of reservoirs and river systems. International Commission on Large Dams (ICOLD), Brasilia

    Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (1994) Methods and guidelines for assessing sustainable use of soil and water resources in the tropics. USDA/SMSS Bull. 21, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (1995) Erosion-crop productivity relationships for soils of Africa. Soil Sci Soc Am J 59:661–667

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (1998) Soil erosion impact on agronomic productivity and environment quality. Crit Rev Plant Sci 17:319–464

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (2003) Soil erosion and the global carbon budget. Environ Int 29:437–450

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Lal R (2004) Carbon emission from farm operations. Environ Int 30:981–990

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • NRI 1997. Natural Resource inventory. NRCS, Washington, DC

    Google Scholar 

  • Oldeman LR, Hakkeling RT, Sombrock W (1991) Status of human-induced soil degradation: an explanatory note. Global assessment of soil degradation (GLASOD). ISRIC/UNEP, Wageningen, Holland

    Google Scholar 

  • Pimentel D, Harvey C, Resosudarmo P et al (1997) Environmental and economic costs of soil erosion and conservation benefits. Science 267:111–1123

    Google Scholar 

Additional Recommended Reading

  • Lal R (2012) Soils and ecosystem services. In: Lal R, Lorenz K, Huttle RF, Schneider BU,von Braun J (eds) Ecosystem services and carbon sequestration in the biosphere, Springer, Holland

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • Nkonya E, Gerber N, Baumgartner P, von Braun J, De Pinto A, Graw V, Kato E, Kloos J, Walter T(2011) In: Lang P (ed) The economics of land degradation, ZEF, Univ. of Bonn, Germany and IFPRI, Washington, D.C.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Rattan Lal .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2014 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht

About this entry

Cite this entry

Lal, R. (2014). Desertification and Soil Erosion. In: Freedman, B. (eds) Global Environmental Change. Handbook of Global Environmental Pollution, vol 1. Springer, Dordrecht.

Download citation

Publish with us

Policies and ethics