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Keywords:

  • badlands;
  • Mediterranean;
  • erosion rates;
  • climate change

Abstract

Badland areas provide some of the highest erosion rates globally. Most studies of erosion have insufficient lengths of record to interrogate the impacts of decadal-scale changes in precipitation on rates of badland erosion in regions such as the Mediterranean, which are known to be sensitive to land degradation and desertification. Erosion measurements, derived from field monitoring using erosion pins, in southern Italy during the period 1974–2004 are used to explore the impacts of changing precipitation patterns on badland erosion. Erosion on badland inter-rill areas is strongly correlated with cumulative rainfall over each monitoring period. Annual precipitation has a substantial dynamic range, but both annual and winter (December, January, February) rainfall amounts in southern Italy show a steady decrease over the period 1970–2000. The persistence of positive values of the winter North Atlantic Oscillation index in the period 1980–2000 is correlated with a reduction in the winter rainfall amounts. Future climate scenarios show a reduction in annual rainfall across the western and central Mediterranean which is likely to result in a further reduction in erosion rates in existing badlands. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.