28 Jul 2021

28 Jul 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal SOIL.

The effect of natural infrastructure on water erosion mitigation in the Andes

Veerle Vanacker1, Armando Molina1, Miluska Rosas-Barturen1,2, Vivien Bonnesoeur3,4, Francisco Román-Dañobeytia3,4, Boris Ochoa-Tocachi4,5, and Wouter Buytaert4,5 Veerle Vanacker et al.
  • 1Georges Lemaitre Center for Earth and Climate Research, Earth and Life Institute, UCLouvain, Louvain-la-Neuve, Belgium
  • 2Departamento Académico de Ingeniería, Pontifica Universidad Católica del Perú, Lima, Perú
  • 3Consorcio para el Desarrollo de la Ecorregión Andina (CONDESAN), Lima, Perú
  • 4Regional Initiative for Hydrological Monitoring of Andean Ecosystems (iMHEA), Lima, Perú
  • 5Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering & Grantham Institute – Climate Change and the Environment, London, United Kingdom

Abstract. Soil erosion by water is affecting natural and anthropogenic environments through its impacts on water quality and availability, loss of soil nutrients, flood risk, sedimentation in rivers and streams, and damage to civil infrastructure. Sustainable management aims to avoid, reduce and reverse soil erosion and can provide multiple benefits for the environment, population, and livelihoods. We conducted a systematic review of 121 case studies from the Andes to answer the following questions: (1) Which erosion indicators allow us to assess the effectiveness of natural infrastructure? (2) What is the overall impact of working with natural infrastructure on on-site and off-site erosion mitigation? and (3) Which locations and types of studies are needed to fill critical gaps in knowledge and research?

Three major categories of natural infrastructure were considered: protective vegetation, soil and water conservation measures, and adaptation measures that regulate the flow and transport of water. From the suite of physical, chemical and biological indicators commonly used in soil erosion research, two indicators were particularly relevant: soil organic carbon (SOC) of topsoil, and soil loss rates at the plot scale. In areas with protective vegetation and/or soil and water conservation measures, the SOC of topsoil is –on average– 1.3 to 2.8 times higher than in areas under traditional agriculture. Soil loss rates in areas with natural infrastructure were reported to be 38 % to 54 % lower than rates measured in untreated croplands. Further research is needed to evaluate whether the reported effectiveness holds during extreme events related to, for example, El Niño–Southern Oscillation.

Veerle Vanacker et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on soil-2021-76', Anonymous Referee #1, 26 Aug 2021
  • RC2: 'Comment on soil-2021-76', Anonymous Referee #2, 30 Sep 2021

Veerle Vanacker et al.

Veerle Vanacker et al.


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Short summary
The Andes region is prone to natural hazards due to its steep topography and climatic variability. Anthropogenic activities further exacerbate environmental hazards and risks. This systematic review synthesizes our knowledge on the effectiveness of nature-based solutions. Conservation of natural vegetation and implementation of soil and water conservation measures had significant and positive effects on soil organic carbon and erosion mitigation.