Establishing quantitative benchmarks for soil erosion and ecological monitoring, assessment, and management

TitleEstablishing quantitative benchmarks for soil erosion and ecological monitoring, assessment, and management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2024
AuthorsWebb, NP, Edwards, BL, Heller, A, McCord, SE, Schallner, JW, Treminio, RS, Wheeler, BE, Stauffer, NG, Spiegal, S, Duniway, MC, Traynor, ACE, Kachergis, E, Houdeshell, CA
JournalEcological Indicators
KeywordsAdaptive management, Ecological thresholds, Reference site, water erosion, Wind erosion

Soil erosion can have a multitude of negative impacts on agroecosystems and society and there remains an urgent
need for tools to support its management. Quantitative benchmarks based on holistic understanding of erosion
processes, ecosystem function, and land use objectives can be used with monitoring data and models to inform
assessments and make objective and actionable decisions about erosion management. However, managers
currently lack a framework for establishing benchmarks. Here, we present a framework and evaluation of
different approaches to establishing quantitative benchmarks for soil erosion and ecological monitoring and
assessment that can inform land management decisions. We use monitoring data collected across Chihuahuan
Desert ecosystems in the United States and an aeolian sediment transport model to illustrate how benchmarks
can be established. Approaches include establishing benchmarks from relationships between soil erosion in-
dicators, reference states and land potential, including state-and-transition models, and desired conditions from
existing monitoring data. We discuss the benefits and caveats of the different approaches and show how
combining different benchmarking approaches can help users ensure that benchmarks appropriately reflect
thresholds for soil erosion and achievable management outcomes. We finish by identifying future research needs
to support establishment and application of erosion benchmarks across agroecosystems and recognize the op-
portunity to extend the benchmarking approaches to management of other agroecosystem processes and services.