Concern about soil erosion on arable land in Britain dates back at least 40 years. Monitoring schemes and case studies have subsequently identified the areas at risk, the rates and frequencies and the major factors responsible for erosion. Initial concern focused on impacts on the farm and therefore on food production. Latterly the emphasis has shifted to off-farm impacts particularly reservoir sedimentation, muddy flooding of properties and the ecological damage to watercourses due to nutrient enrichment, pesticides and damage to fish spawning grounds from fine-sediment inputs. The shift has therefore been to concerns about a healthy and sustainable environment which includes soils. Government agencies, the water companies and the farming industry have lagged behind scientific studies in recognising and addressing erosion problems. Attempts at mitigation are now largely driven by the need to comply with the EU Water Framework Directive whereby watercourses must reach “good status” by 2015. Future changes in land use and climate will offer further challenges in terms of effective monitoring and compliance.
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