Toward a more holistic perspective of soil erosion: Why aeolian research needs to explicitly consider fluvial processes and interactions

Jason P. Field, David D. Breshears, Jeffrey J. Whicker

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Soil erosion is driven by not only aeolian but also fluvial transport processes, yet these two types of processes are usually studied independently, thereby precluding effective assessment of overall erosion, potential interactions between the two drivers, and their relative sensitivities to projected changes in climate and land use. Here we provide a perspective that aeolian and fluvial transport processes need to be considered in concert relative to total erosion and to potential interactions, that relative dominance and sensitivity to disturbance vary with mean annual precipitation, and that there are important scale-dependencies associated with aeolian-fluvial interactions. We build on previous literature to present relevant conceptual syntheses highlighting these issues. We then highlight relative investments that have been made in soil erosion and sediment control by comparing the amount of resources allocated to aeolian and fluvial research using readily available metrics. Literature searches suggest that aeolian transport may be somewhat understudied relative to fluvial transport and, most importantly, that only a relatively small number of studies explicitly consider both aeolian and fluvial transport processes. Numerous environmental issues associated with intensification of land use and climate change impacts depend on not only overall erosion rates but also on differences and interactions between aeolian and fluvial processes. Therefore, a more holistic viewpoint of erosional processes that explicitly considers both aeolian and fluvial processes and their interactions is needed to optimize management and deployment of resources to address imminent changes in land use and climate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
JournalAeolian Research
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2009


  • Aeolian
  • Dust
  • Fluvial
  • Sediment
  • Water erosion
  • Wind erosion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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