Historical rates of soil erosion in the Midwestern U.S.


Historical rates of soil erosion in the Midwestern U.S.


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soil erosion, geomorphology, Midwestern US, agriculture, native prairies


Environmental Monitoring | Geomorphology | Natural Resources and Conservation


In the Midwestern U.S., erosion has caused native prairie remnants to become perched above surrounding farmland, providing an opportunity to measure historical soil loss. We conducted high-resolution topographic surveys across erosional escarpments at the boundary between 20 prairies and adjacent fields. Data were collected in 2016,2017, and 2019 in South Dakota, Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, and Illinois. Coordinates, elevation data, and transect number are given for each of the 20 locations. Coordinates are provided in UTM Zones 14, 15, or 16.

We used results from the topographic surveys and data from Lidar-derived elevation data to regionally scale estimates of soil loss and historically averaged erosion rates. For each county within the region, we calculated the historically averaged erosion rate and the modern erosion rate estimated by the USDA National Resources Inventory. The data for these analyses are provided as shapefiles.



Grant/Award Number and Agency

National Science Foundation # 1653191

Geological Society of America Graduate Student Research Grant

Historical rates of soil erosion in the Midwestern U.S.