Quantifying the soil erosion legacy of the Soviet Union


We examine the historical legacy of the Soviet Union on the current rate of human-induced soil erosion in its successor countries. We use a spatial regression discontinuity design and high-resolution soil erosion data. Our results suggest strong discontinuities in current soil erosion rates along the former border of the Soviet Union. We find that soil erosion in countries that were part of the former Soviet Union is 26% lower than in neighboring countries (0.77 tons per hectare and year). In contrast, we do not find such discontinuity in potential soil erosion under natural vegetation, underlining that this effect is man-made. We show that the main mechanism is a sharp discontinuity in forest dynamics, whereas general economic and demographic differences are less important.

Agricultural Systems