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Assessing Soil Erosion Risk

  • 5 ECTS PhD course Sunday 6 August - Saturday 12 August 2017
  • Aarhus University Foulum, Department of Agroecology, DK-8830 Tjele (Meeting room 1)

About 80% of the world’s land degradation is caused by wind and water erosion. Hence, vital conservation planning in agricultures around the world requires comprehensive erosion risk assessment. This hands-on course introduces students to three important methodological approaches to erosion risk assessment, i.e. experimental measurements, mapping, and modelling, for generating process understanding at different spatial and temporal scales. Following introductory lectures student teams will conduct field studies, modeling exercises, and erosion risk scenario analyses on the basis of the data collected. Soil erosion measurements will be done in situ using the Portable Wind and Rainfall Simulator (PWRS) for investigating interactions between wind and water erosion processes. Additionally, the study area is being surveyed including laser scanning and soil mapping. The course will thus enable students to interpret key soil erosion risk factors both in a dynamic process and in a landscape context. 

The course is arranged in collaboration with University of Basel, Switzerland.

Teachers are:

  • Professor Nikolaus J. Kuhn, University of Basel
  • Associate professor Goswin Heckrath, Aarhus University 

Pre-registration for the course is now open. 

We will come back to you by April 2017 at the latest with further details on course fee (= 500 Euro) and other practicalities.

See the course flyer here.

Course content

About 80% of the world’s land degradation is caused by wind and water erosion. Many different approaches have been pursued for investigating erosion processes, quantifying sediment delivery ratios, and for finding suitable mitigation options. Unfortunately, no single approach is able to simultaneously generate comprehensive process understanding at the different relevant spatial and temporal scales necessary for comprehensive risk assessment.

Three of the most important methodological approaches, experimental measurements, mapping, and modelling will be applied in this hands-on course. The linkage of these methodological approaches facilitates a holistic understanding of the influencing factors, the processes involved and the consequences of soil erosion in a landscape context. The main advantages of experimental plot measurements are their ability to simulate constant and reproducible conditions and to generate a lot of data in a short period of time. Additionally, effects of climate and land use change on future soil erosion rates can be simulated by changing rainfall intensities, wind velocities or land management systems. The results will be analysed in relation to a simple model of soil erodibility.

This experimental method is supplemented by mapping geomorphology and soil types in the study catchment. Since plot-scale results cannot directly be upscaled, the information on erodibility and erosivity derived at the fine scale is finally used in simple erosion risk modelling by means of scenario analyses.


The students will be evaluated (pass/fail) based on the written report which is to be submitted within a month after the course. Evaluation of course quality will be done with using a standard electronic questionnaire, which is sent to the students on the last day of the course. 


The co-organizer of the course is geomorphologist Prof. Dr. Nikolaus J. Kuhn from the University of Basel, Switzerland.

The course will last seven days and is organized as a combination of introductory lectures and hands-on field experiments, laboratory analyses, mapping exercises, and guided data analysis and modeling undertaken by the participants.

The participants will work in three groups of about six to further discussions and exchanges of background knowledge between the participants. The format of the course strengthens team working and provides favourable conditions for networking.

The course language will be English.

The course puts special emphasis on the important interaction between wind and water erosion processes. Soil erosion measurements will be conducted using the recently developed Portable Wind and Rainfall Simulator (PWRS). The soil mapping includes the registration of micro-topography by means of laser scanning at the test site. The field experiments are done on established erosion plots in the vicinity of the Research Centre Foulum, where the course is held. The results from the experimental measurements, the mapping and the modeling will be brought together to perform erosion risk scenario analyses for this region. 


The total work load is 130 hours corresponding to 5 ECTS points.

Preparatory work and reporting comprise 1 ECTS point each.

Practical information

Housing during the course week:

The course week will consist of very long and intensive days, so if you don’t already live in Viborg or Foulum, we recommend you to book accommodation in Viborg. 

It is your own responsibility to arrange accommodation. We recommend that you book a room close to the city center.

Transport to and from Foulum:

It is your own responsibility to come to Foulum in the morning Monday – Friday. From Viborg you can take regional bus #62 (leaving central bus station 07:38) or bus #750 (leaving central bus station 07:40).

The first course day is Sunday 6th August and it is not possible to take a public bus during the weekend.

Therefore we arrange common transport both ways Saturday 6th August, Sunday 7th August and Saturday 12th August. Pick-up points will be announced later. Rest of the course week we will arrange transport back to Viborg after end of each course day.


  • We provide you with coffee/the, fruit and cake during each course day.
  • Lunch is on your own. You can bring your own lunch or buy in Foulum canteen.
    • On Sunday 6th August and Saturday 12th August we will provide you with lunch.
  • Dinner is included (except Saturday 12th August).




How to find your way to Viborg


The railway station is located in the center of Viborg. If you plan to come by train, maybe this link can help you www.rejseplanen.dk (English version available). 

If you fly into Copenhagen Airport, you can take the train to Viborg (app. 4.5 hours trip).


The nearest airport is Karup Airport. Karup Airport is not an international airport, but there is daily connections to Copenhagen. The airport is serviced by Danish Air Transport and you can see daily connections on their homepage: www.dat.dk

The cheapest way of transport from Karup Airport to Viborg is the TELETAXA. You need to book a seat in the TELETAXA beforehand. You can call the company at least one day before arrival (phone: +45 87 40 83 00 - press '3'). The price one way is app. 40 DKK and must be paid to the driver (only cash and Danish currency is accepted). You can also e-mail Jytte Christensen (mailto: Jytte.Christensen@agro.au.dk) and ask her to book a seat for you. 

Using AALBORG AIRPORT, AARHUS AIRPORT or BILLUND AIRPORT is also a possibility, but it can be a bit more complicated to come to Viborg by public transport from these airports. 

AARHUS AIRPORT to Viborg: The best option is to take the airport bus to Aarhus C and then take a train to Viborg (travel time from Aarhus to Viborg by train app. 75 minutes). 

AALBORG AIRPORT to Viborg: If you arrive at Aalborg Airport you can take the airport bus to Aalborg Bus Terminal. From Aalborg Bus Terminal you can take either route no 960X or 980X to Viborg.   

COPENHAGEN AIRPORT: If you fly into Copenhagen Airport, you can take the train to Viborg (app. 4.5 hours trip).