THE IMPACT OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON SOIL HYDROLOGY AND DEGRADATION: AN ASSESSMENT OF VULNERABILITIES ON IRISH AGRICULTURE Suresh Kumar and John Sweeney, ICARUS Dept of Geography, National University of Ireland, Maynooth, Ireland Presently, soil erosion problems in northern Europe are less serious than in southern parts of the continent due to a generally less intensive rainfall regime and gentler topographical gradients. This situation is likely to alter significantly as a result of global climate change. Existing research on soils in Ireland has thus far not encompassed considerations of climate change since the required climatic scenarios have not been developed at a sufficiently high spatial and temporal resolution. So our current work is focused on the understanding and quantification of the resistance and resilience of Irish soils to changes in climate and also in assessing the likely impact of climate change on soil functional parameters over a range of spatial and temporal scales. An initial exercise in mapping erosion risks in response to changing precipitation regimes is presented here .We have analysed 30 years of rainfall data (1961–90) for calculating Rainfall erosivity (R). Greatest impacts are observed at higher elevations and in the west of Ireland. These areas are dominated by blanket peat, which is anticipated as coming under threat due to projected shifts in rainfall patterns under future climatic scenarios. In recent years, peat erosion and bog bursts have been observed and are of growing concern, ecologically. Due to the predominance of pasture, the crop management factor (C) contributing to rainfall interception and subsequent run-off is subdued and this is compounded by the light nature of soils (K) with high organic matter and a matrix of fibrous roots systems. The impact of climate change on soil erosion was assessed at the national scale using RUSLE (GIS) on and compared with PESERA. Initial results show that sediment yields are very low as indicated in the figure below. Future work will focus on arable areas in various hydrological regions using the WEPP/WatEM and SWAT models.