A high-resolution soil erosion risk map of Switzerland as strategic policy support system

Prasuhn, Volker; Liniger, Hanspeter; Gisler, Simon; Herweg, Karl Günter; Candinas, Anton; Clément, Jean-Pierre (2013). A high-resolution soil erosion risk map of Switzerland as strategic policy support system. Land use policy, 32, pp. 281-291. Amsterdam: Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.landusepol.2012.11.006

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Soil erosion models and soil erosion risk maps are often used as indicators to assess potential soil erosion in order to assist policy decisions. This paper shows the scientific basis of the soil erosion risk map of Switzerland and its application in policy and practice. Linking a USLE/RUSLE-based model approach (AVErosion) founded on multiple flow algorithms and the unit contributing area concept with an extremely precise and high-resolution digital terrain model (2 m × 2 m grid) using GIS allows for a realistic assessment of the potential soil erosion risk, on single plots, i.e. uniform and comprehensive for the agricultural area of Switzerland (862,579 ha in the valley area and the lower mountain regions). The national or small-scale soil erosion prognosis has thus reached a level heretofore possible only in smaller catchment areas or single plots. Validation was carried out using soil loss data from soil erosion damage mappings in the field from long-term monitoring in different test areas. 45% of the evaluated agricultural area of Switzerland was classified as low potential erosion risk, 12% as moderate potential erosion risk, and 43% as high potential erosion risk. However, many of the areas classified as high potential erosion risk are located at the transition from valley to mountain zone, where many areas are used as permanent grassland, which drastically lowers their current erosion risk. The present soil erosion risk map serves on the one hand to identify and prioritise the high-erosion risk areas, and on the other hand to promote awareness amongst farmers and authorities. It was published on the internet and will be made available to the authorities in digital form. It is intended as a tool for simplifying and standardising enforcement of the legal framework for soil erosion prevention in Switzerland. The work therefore provides a successful example of cooperation between science, policy and practice.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Geographies of Sustainability > Unit Land Systems and Sustainable Land Management (LS-SLM)
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > NCCR North-South Management Centre [discontinued]
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Liniger, Hanspeter and Herweg, Karl Günter


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Elsevier Science




Users 124 not found.

Date Deposited:

04 Oct 2013 14:43

Last Modified:

05 Nov 2015 11:20

Publisher DOI:


Web of Science ID:



https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/17766 (FactScience: 225591)

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