Climate change impacts on soil and water conservation



Climate change and particularly precipitation changes will affect water runoff and soil erosion from agricultural cropland, but will the change be large enough to warrant modifications in U.S. conservation policy or practice? In a 2003 report by the Soil and Water Conservation Society (SWCS), this question was answered with an emphatic yes [SWSC, 2003]. Impacts of projected precipitation changes on soil erosion and runoff are complex, display high regional and temporal variability, and depend on a number of nonclimatic factors, such as seasonal timing of agronomic practices and antecedent soil moisture conditions. Altogether, observed and projected changes in precipitation are believed to substantially heighten the risk of runoff, soil erosion, and related environmental consequences. This article reports on a follow-up workshop that called for a review of current approaches to estimating soil erosion and runoff on agricultural lands, enhancements to soil and water planning tools, and strengthening of conservation practices and standards.