Dust storm erosion and its impact on soil carbon and nitrogen losses in Northern China

Wang Xiaobin, O. Oenema, W.B. Hoogmoed, U.D. Perdok, D. Cai

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

73 Citations (Scopus)


There is increased awareness of the environmental impacts of soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) losses through wind erosion, especially in areas heavily affected by dust storm erosion. This paper reviews the recent literature concerning dust storm-related soil erosion and its impact on soil C and N losses in northern China. The purpose of our study is to provide an overview of the area of erosion-affected soils and to estimate the magnitude of soil C and N losses from farmland affected by dust storm erosion. According to the second national soil erosion remote-sensing survey in 2000, the area affected by wind erosion was 1.91 million km2, accounting for 20% of the total land area in China. This area is expanding quickly as the incidence of heavy dust storms has greatly increased over the last five decades, mainly as a result of the intensification of soil cultivation. The economic and ecological damage caused by wind erosion is considerable. Heavily affected areas show a loss of nutrients and organic carbon in soils and the heavily degraded soils are much less productive. Compared with the non-degraded soil, the C and N contents in degraded soils have declined by 66% and 73%, respectively. The estimated annual losses per cm toplayer of soil C and N by dust storm erosion in northern China range from 53 to 1044 kg ha¿ 1 and 5 to 90 kg ha¿ 1, respectively. Field studies suggest that soil losses by wind erosion can be reduced by up to 79% when farmers shift from conventional soil tillage methods to no-till. Thus shifting to no-till or reduced tillage systems is an effective practice for protecting soil and soil nutrients. Our study indicates that soil conservation measures along with improved soil fertility management measures should be promoted in dry-land farming areas of northern China. As erosion is a major mechanism of nutrient withdrawal in these areas, we plead for the development of accurate methods for its assessment and for the incorporation of erosion, as a nutrient output term, in nutrient budget studies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)221-227
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006


  • loess plateau
  • wind erosion
  • deposition
  • elements
  • land

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