Measuring Compound Soil Erosion by Wind and Water in the Eastern Agro–Pastoral Ecotone of Northern China

Land degradation induced by soil erosion is widespread in semiarid regions globally and is common in the agro&ndash;pastoral ecotone of northern China. Most researchers identify soil erosion by wind and water as independent processes, and there is a lack of research regarding the relative contributions of wind and water erosion and the interactions between them in what is referred to here as compound soil erosion (CSE). CSE may occur in situations where wind more effectively erodes a surface already subject to water erosion, where rainfall impacts a surface previously exposed by wind erosion, or where material already deposited by wind is subject to water erosion. In this paper, we use the Chinese Soil Loss Equation (CSLE) and the Revised Wind Erosion Equation (RWEQ) to calculate the rate of soil erosion and map the distribution of three types of soil erosion classified as (i) wind (wind-erod), (ii) water (water-erod), and (iii) CSE (CSE-erod) for the study area that spans more than 400,000 km<sup>2</sup> of sand- and loess-covered northern China. According to minimum threshold values for mild erosion, we identify water-erod, wind-erod, and CSE-erod land as occurring across 41.41%, 13.39%, and 27.69% of the total area, while mean soil erosion rates for water-erod, wind-erod, and CSE-erod land were calculated as 6877.65 t km<sup>&minus;2</sup> yr<sup>&minus;1</sup>, 1481.47 t km<sup>&minus;2</sup> yr<sup>&minus;1</sup>, and 5989.49 t km<sup>&minus;2</sup> yr<sup>&minus;1</sup>, respectively. Land subject to CSE-erod is predominantly distributed around the margins of those areas that experience wind erosion and water erosion independently. The CSLE and RWEQ do not facilitate a direct assessment of the interactions between wind and water erosion, so we use these equations here only to derive estimates of the relative contributions of wind erosion and water erosion to total soil erosion and the actual mechanisms controlling the interactions between wind and water erosion require further field investigation. It is concluded that CSE is an important but underappreciated process in semiarid regions and needs to be accounted for in land degradation assessments as it has substantial impacts on agricultural productivity and sustainable development in regions with sandy and/or loess-covered surfaces.