Contemporary trends in cultivated land and their influence on soil/gully erosion and river suspended sediment load were analyzed by various landscape zones within the most populated and agriculturally developed part of European Russia, covering 2,222,390 km2
. Based on official statistics from the Russian Federation and the former Soviet Union, this study showed that after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, there was a steady downward trend in cultivated land throughout the study region. From 1970–1987 to 2005–2017, the region lost about 39% of its croplands. Moreover, the most significant relative reduction in cultivated land was noted in the forest zone (south taiga, mixed and broadleaf forests) and the dry steppes and the semi-desert of the Caspian Lowland—about 53% and 65%, respectively. These territories are with climatically risky agriculture and less fertile soils. There was also a widespread reduction in agricultural machinery on croplands and livestock on pastures of the region. A decrease in soil/gully erosion rates over the past decades was also revealed based on state hydrological monitoring data on river suspended sediment load as one of the indicators of the temporal variability of erosion intensity in river basins and the published results of some field research in various parts of the studied landscape zones. The most significant reduction in the intensity of erosion and the load of river suspended sediment was found in European Russia’s forest-steppe zone. This was presumably due to a favorable combination of the above changes in land cover/use and climate change.
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