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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Soil Erosion, Sediment Yield, and Decision Support Systems for Improved Land Management on Semiarid Rangeland on Semiarid Rangeland Watersheds

Location: Southwest Watershed Research

Title: Application of a rangeland soil erosion model using NRI data in southeastern Arizona

Authors
item Hernandez, M. -
item Nearing, Mark
item Stone, Jeffry
item Pierson, Frederick
item Wei, H. -
item Spaeth, K. -
item Heilman, Philip
item Weltz, Mark
item Goodrich, David

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: February 15, 2013
Publication Date: November 15, 2013
Citation: Hernandez, M., Nearing, M.A., Stone, J.J., Pierson Jr, F.B., Wei, H., Spaeth, K., Heilman, P., Weltz, M.A., Goodrich, D.C. 2013. Application of a rangeland soil erosion model using NRI data in southeastern Arizona. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation Society. 68(6):512-525.

Interpretive Summary: Rangelands cover a large portion of the western United States, and they are important to the US public because they serve as sources of clean water and air, wildlife habitat, ecosystem biodiversity, recreation, and aesthetics. The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a government program that periodically all the non-federal land in the United States, including rangelands. The data collected during an NRI assessment is typical of the type of information collected by rangeland managers. This study outlines a method for using the type of data collected in the NRI to run a rangeland hydrology and erosion model in order to estimate the relative soil erosion rates across ecosystems located in the American Southwest. The model was run on data from 134 rangeland field locations with data collected between 2003 and 2006 in southeastern Arizona, which is a diverse ecological area located in the transition zone between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. Results of the study showed that the data collected was effectively used with the model to assess the influence of vegetation, soils, and topography on soil erosion rates. The results suggested that the model could be further improved with the collection of additional experimental data on key ecological sites in order to better reflect ecosystem. The results of this study are important because they will help the US government, as well as rangeland land managers, better protect and conserve the open spaces of the American West.

Technical Abstract: Rangelands comprise a large portion of the western United States. They are important for providing ecosystem services such as sources of clean water and air, wildlife habitat, ecosystem biodiversity, recreation, and aesthetics. The National Resources Inventory (NRI) is a primary data source for on-going assessment of non-federal land in the United States, including rangelands, and the data collected during an NRI assessment is typical of rangeland monitoring conducted by managers. This study outlines a methodology for using that type of monitoring data to run a rangeland hydrology and erosion model in order to estimate the relative soil erosion rates across ecosystems located in the American Southwest. The model was run on 134 NRI rangeland field locations with data collected between 2003 and 2006 in Major Land Resource Area 41, the Southeastern Arizona Basin and Range, which is a diverse ecological area of 40,765 km2 in the transition zone between the Sonoran and Chihuahuan Deserts. Results of the study showed that the data collected was adequate to run the model and effectively assess the influence of foliar, ground cover, plant life-form, soils, and topography on current soil erosion rates. Results suggested that the model could be further improved with additional measured experimental data on infiltration, runoff, and soil erosion within key ecological sites in order to better quantify model parameters to reflect ecosystem changes and risk of crossing interdependent biotic and abiotic thresholds.

Last Modified: 11/24/2014
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