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Process identification of soil erosion in steep mountain regions

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Author(s): N. Konz | D. Baenninger | M. Konz | M. Nearing | C. Alewell

Journal: Hydrology and Earth System Sciences
ISSN 1027-5606

Volume: 14;
Issue: 4;
Start page: 675;
Date: 2010;
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ABSTRACT
Mountainous soil erosion processes were investigated in the Urseren Valley (Central Switzerland) by means of measurements and simulations. The quantification of soil erosion was performed on hill slope scale (2ยท20 m) for three different land use types: hayfields, pastures with dwarf shrubs and pastures without dwarf shrubs with three replicates each. Erosion rates during growing season were measured with sediment traps between June 2006 and November 2007. Long-term soil erosion rates were estimated based on Cs- 137 redistribution. In addition, soil moisture and surface flow were recorded during the growing season in the field and compared to model output. We chose the WEPP model (Water Erosion Prediction Project) to simulate soil erosion during the growing season. Model parameters were determined in the field (slope, plant species, fractional vegetation cover, initial saturation level), by laboratory analyses (grain size, organic matter) and by literature study. The WEPP model simulates sheet erosion processes (interrill and splash erosion processes, please note that no rill erosion occurs at our sites). Model output resulted in considerable smaller values than the measured erosion rates with sediment traps for the same period. We attribute the differences to observed random gravity driven erosion of soil conglomerates. The Cs-137 measurements deliver substantially higher mean annual erosion rates, which are most likely connected to snow cover related processes such as snow gliding and avalanche activities.

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