Rainfall erosivity in South America: Current patterns and future perspectives

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Jul 1:724:138315. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138315. Epub 2020 Mar 31.


Rainfall erosivity is the driving factor for soil erosion and can be potentially affected by climate change, impacting agriculture and the environment. In this study, we sought to project the impact of climate change on the long-term average annual rainfall erosivity (R-factor) and mean annual precipitation in South America. The CanESM2, HadGEM2-ES, and MIROC5 global circulation models (GCMs) and the average of the GCMs (GCM-Ensemble) downscaled by the Eta/CPTEC model at a spatial resolution of 20 km in the representative concentration pathway (RCP) 8.5 were applied in this study. A geographical model to estimate the R-factor across South America was fitted. This model was based on latitude, longitude, altitude, and mean annual precipitation as inputs obtained from the WorldClim database. Using this model, the first R-factor map for South America was developed (for the baseline period: 1961-2005). The GCMs projected mean annual precipitation for three 30-year time periods (time slices: 2010-2040; 2041-2070; 2071-2099). These projections were used to run the R-factor model to assess the impact of climate change. It was observed that the changes were more pronounced in the Amazon Forest region (namely, the North Region, NR, and the Andes North Region, ANR) with a strong reduction in the mean annual precipitation and R-factor throughout the century. The highest increase in the R-factor was projected on the Central and South Andes regions (CAR and SAR) because of the increase in the mean annual precipitation projected by the GCMs. The GCMs pointed contradictory projections for the Central-South Region (CSR), indicating greater uncertainty. An increase in the R-factor was projected for this region, eastern Argentina, and southern Brazil, whereas a decrease in the R-factor was expected for southeastern Brazil. In general, the GCMs projected reductions in the R-factor and annual precipitation for South America, with the highest changes projected from the baseline to the 2010-2040 time slice.

Keywords: Climate change; Continental scale; R-factor; Soil erosion.