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Scientists Meet to Tackle Gully Erosion Issue

By Luis Pons
April 28, 2004

OXFORD, Miss., Apr. 28--Scientists from around the world will focus on one of the great threats to agricultural watersheds when the Third International Symposium on Gully Erosion begins here today.

The symposium is hosted jointly by the National Sedimentation Laboratory (NSL) operated by USDA's Agricultural Research Service, and the University of Mississippi, both in Oxford. It will run through Saturday and expand upon the topics and themes of previous conferences in Belgium in 2000 and China in 2002. General objectives of this week's meeting will include improved understanding of fundamental processes and mechanisms of gully erosion; improved prediction methods; and development of techniques, technologies and strategies to control and prevent the problem.

Gully erosion is caused by runoff water that produces deep cuts in land. "It is the most visible, but least attended to, form of soil erosion," said NSL Director Matt J.M. Römkens. "Gullies affect land use, land accessibility, soil productivity, farming, roads and the stream system, among many other things."

Gully erosion produces more sediment than any other erosion mode, Römkens added. "It has received comparatively less attention than rainfall or overland flow-induced erosion due to the complicated nature and scale of the processes involved."

The symposium is being held in the E.F. Yerby Conference Center auditorium on the University of Mississippi campus. Keynote speakers include Jean Poesen, professor of geomorphology at Catholic University's Laboratory for Experimental Geomorphology in Louvain, Belgium; Li Rui, director of the Institute of Soil and Water Conservation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources in Shaanxi Province, People's Republic of China; C. Ted Yang, professor of water resources and director of the Hydroscience and Training Center at Colorado State University at Fort Collins; and former NSL director George R. Foster.

The National Sedimentation Laboratory emphasizes interdisciplinary research dealing with the processes of soil erosion, transport and deposition of sediment, movement of chemicals on upland areas and in streams, and the impact of agricultural practices. Its research also encompasses studies on in-stream structures, bank protection, water quality and the ecological well-being of streams.

ARS is the USDA's chief scientific research agency.