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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: SOIL EROSION, SEDIMENT YIELD, CONSERVATION STRUCTURES, AND DSS FOR SUSTAINABLE LAND MANAGEMENT ON SEMIARID RANGELAND WATERSHED

Location: Southwest Watershed Research

Title: Headcut retreat in a semiarid watershed in the southwestern United States since 1935

Authors
item Reike-Zapp, D. -
item NICHOLS, MARY

Submitted to: Catena
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: April 20, 2011
Publication Date: October 1, 2011
Citation: Reike-Zapp, D., Nichols, M.H. 2011. Headcut retreat in a semiarid watershed in the southwestern United States since 1935. Catena. 87(1):1-10.

Interpretive Summary: Headcuts can be found in many watersheds in the southwestern United States. In general, headcuts are associated with eroding areas. Within the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW) near Tombstone, Arizona, three headcuts were evaluated to determine the rate of advance in relation to rainfall characteristics. Aerial photos and field measurements were used to quantify headcut advance since 1935. The data were incorporated and analyzed in a geographical information system (GIS). The headcuts have advanced persistently since 1935. The behavior of headcut advance was typical for the southwestern United States where alternating patterns of erosion and deposition are common features of the landscape. The data did not allow timing or identification of causes for headcut advance. Data suggests that all three headcuts will continue to advance in the future, even though the advance rate is affected by a layer of cemented alluvial material which acts as local base level control.

Technical Abstract: Headcuts are prominent feature in the southwestern United States. Within the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed (WGEW) survey data was available to quantify the advance of the three most prominent headcuts in sub-watershed 63.011 since 1935. The data was incorporated and analyzed in a geographical information system (GIS). The headcuts have advanced persistently since 1935. A power relationship was fitted by regression (R2 = 0.96) correlating the number of rainfall events in the contributing watersheds exceeded an I30 of (25 mm hr-1 • contributing area) to headcut advance. The relationship was site specific and may not apply universally in other regions. Headcut advance was not induced by external forcing. The autocyclic behavior of headcut advance was typical for the southwestern United States. The data did not allow timing or identification of causes for headcut advance. Data suggests that all three headcuts will continue to advance in the future, even though the advance rate of one headcut was severely inhibited by exhumation of the Gleeson Road Conglomerate, a layer of cemented material, acting as local base level control.

Last Modified: 7/25/2014
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