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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2019-82
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/soil-2019-82
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: original research article 07 Nov 2019

Submitted as: original research article | 07 Nov 2019

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This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal SOIL (SOIL).

Modelling soil and landscape evolution – the effect of rainfall and land use change on soil and landscape patterns

W. Marijn van der Meij1,2, Arnaud J. A. M. Temme3,4, Jakob Wallinga1, and Michael Sommer2,5 W. Marijn van der Meij et al.
  • 1Soil Geography and Landscape Group, Wageningen University and Research, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA, Wageningen, the Netherlands
  • 2Research Area Landscape Functioning, Working Group Landscape Pedology, Leibniz-Centre for Agricultural Landscape Research ZALF, Eberswalder Straße 84, 15374 Müncheberg, Germany
  • 3Department of Geography, Kansas State University, 920 N17th Street, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA
  • 4Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, Campus Box 450, Boulder, CO, 80309-0450, USA
  • 5Institute of Environmental Science & Geography, University of Potsdam, Karl-Liebknecht-Straße 24-25, 14476 Potsdam, Germany

Abstract. Humans have substantially altered soil and landscape patterns and properties due to agricultural use, with severe impacts on biodiversity, carbon sequestration and food security. These impacts are difficult to quantify, because we lack data on long-term changes in soils in natural and agricultural settings and available simulation methods are not suitable to reliably predict future development of soils under projected changes in climate and land management. To help overcome these challenges, we developed the HydroLorica soil-landscape evolution model, that simulates soil development by explicitly modelling the spatial water balance as driver of soil and landscape forming processes. We simulated 14500 years of soil – formation under natural conditions for three scenarios of different rainfall inputs. For each scenario we added a 500-year period of intensive agricultural land use, where we introduced tillage erosion and changed vegetation type.

Our results show substantial differences between natural soil patterns under different rainfall input. With higher rainfall, soil patterns become more heterogeneous due to increased tree throw and water erosion. Agricultural patterns differ substantially from the natural patterns, with higher variation of soil properties over larger distances and larger correlations with terrain position. In the natural system, rainfall is the dominant factor influencing soil variation, while for agricultural soil patterns landform explains most of the variation simulated. The cultivation of soils thus changed the dominant factors and processes influencing soil formation, and thereby also increased predictability of soil patterns. Our study highlights the potential of soil-landscape evolution modelling for simulating past and future developments of soil and landscape patterns. Our results confirm that humans have become the dominant soil forming factor in agricultural landscapes.

W. Marijn van der Meij et al.
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Short summary
We developed a model to simulate long-term development of soils and landscapes under varying rainfall and land-use conditions to quantify the temporal variation of soil patterns. In natural landscapes, rainfall amount was the dominant factor influencing soil variation, while for agricultural landscapes, landscape position became the dominant factor due to tillage erosion. Our model shows potential for simulating past and future developments of soils in various landscapes.
We developed a model to simulate long-term development of soils and landscapes under varying...
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