Splash erosion : A review with unanswered questions

Fernández-Raga, María; Palencia, Covadonga; Keesstra, Saskia; Jordán, Antonio; Fraile, Roberto; Angulo-Martínez, Marta; Cerda Bolinches, Artemio


Soil erosion is a serious ecological and environmental problem, and the main cause of land degradation in many ecosystems at global scale. Detachment of soil particles by raindrop splash is the first stage in the soil erosion process. A review of the scientific literature published in peer-reviewed international journals (ISI) over the last decades on splash erosion research sheds light on the current scientific knowledge on this topic. In addition, it highlights the research gaps and unanswered questions in our understanding of soil erosion processes due to splash. In this literature review, a bibliographic search in Web of Science by the Institute for Scientific Information (ISI) database was carried out on August the 9th, 2016, that returned 669 papers containing the words “splash erosion”. The research found was categorised according to a number of criteria: i) devices used to measure splash erosion, ii) advantages and disadvantages of these devices, iii) splash erosion studies by country, iv) date of publication of the first article, v) evolution of the number of articles published in each ten-year period, vi) concepts studied, vii) keywords, viii) authors, ix) number of citations, and x) most cited articles. After this review a synthesis of the information that the science has published about splash erosion was made in order to improve our understanding about splash erosion, by identifying the research questions that still remain unanswered today about the first detachment mechanism. From this review several issues were found important for the advancement of this research topic: a) further study of the known basic factors influencing splash erosion; b) description and quantification of sources of uncertainty about the measurement of different variables; c) to understand the influences that the chosen research approach by individual researchers will have in the final result; and, d) to study the impact of drivers or mitigation techniques that may affect splash erosion.