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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Oxford, Mississippi » National Sedimentation Laboratory » Watershed Physical Processes Research » Research » Research Project #432519

Research Project: Managing Water and Sediment Movement in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research

2018 Annual Report

4. Accomplishments
1. Measurement of gravel transport using impact plates. Accurate knowledge of the rate of gravel movement in streams is necessary to assess the stability of the channel boundary and its potential for instability and erosion. This is particularly true when coarse sediment, which has been stored in a reservoir for 100 years, has the potential to be entrained following the removal of a dam and potentially cause channel instability and capacity issues downstream. A series of impact plates were installed in the Elwha River to monitor the transport of gravel following the removal of two dams in 2012 and 2014. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, conducted experiments in a laboratory flume to calibrate replica impact plates of the ones installed in the Elwha River. The plates were successfully calibrated to allow measurement of the number and mass of gravel particles in motion using the experimental data. Methods to adapt the calibrations to the Elwha River have been developed. Calibration relations for the impact plates on the Elwha River will allow river managers to adaptively manage the removal of the impounded sediment in a more informed and environmentally sensitive manner.

2. Analysis of irrigation reservoir levee erosion at Lonoke Demonstration Farm, Arkansas. Wind-driven waves erode earthen levees, causing significant maintenance costs for irrigation reservoirs and aquaculture ponds. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, measured levee erosion for a wide range of levee configurations and surface treatments on the Lonoke demonstration irrigation reservoir, Arkansas. Among the tested treatments, soil cement, fly ash, and geo-textiles were the most effective for reducing levee erosion by wind-driven waves. Slope and berm treatments, which modified the geometry of the levees, were not effective, with severe erosion on all sections. The most important characteristic associated with erosion was the distance across the reservoir in the direction of prevailing strong winds. The results of this work will be used to design reservoirs and wave-reduction technologies to make surface water storage more economically sustainable and to extend the life of aquaculture ponds.

3. Linkages for water flow from hillslopes to streams includes surface and subsurface flow pathways. For watersheds with networks of preferential flow paths, such as subsurface soil pipes and surface features such as edge of field gullies, the hydrologic response of the watershed can depend upon their hydrologic connectivity. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, determined the relationships between perched water tables on hillslopes with flow through soil pipes along with the thresholds for their hydrologic connectivity for two catchments in the Goodwin Creek Experimental Watershed, Mississippi. Perched water tables developed on hillslopes during a wetting up period (October – December) and became well connected spatially across hillslope positions throughout the high flow period (January – March). The water table was not spatially connected on hillslopes during the drying out (April-June) and low flow (July-September) periods. However, even when perched water tables were not well-connected, water flowing through soil pipes provided hydrologic connectivity between upper hillslopes and catchment outlets. This connectivity can result in flashy stream response, decrease in groundwater recharge, and potential by-pass of the capacity of soil to filter runoff waters of impurities.

4. Targeting conservation practice placement in watersheds by tracking and identifying sediment sources from fields. Watershed-scale simulation technology can be used to identify and track sediment loads that originate in fields and are then routed downstream. This technology allows for quantification of the impact of individual and/or integrated management practices throughout the watershed. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, used watershed simulation technology to simulate the erosion from all fields in the watershed with the highest erosive fields identified for further study with advanced field erosion technology. Using an integrated modeling approach, these targeted fields can be analyzed based on multiple management, landscape, and combined management-landscape conditions. The erosion from these targeted fields can then be integrated back into the watershed simulations to quantify the overall effect of enhanced field characterization on sediment loads at the field and watershed scales. Methods for identification of critical sediment producing areas using integrated field erosion and watershed sediment transport models can be used to support the development, evaluation and implementation of conservation management plans impacting the entire watershed by action agencies.

5. Improved soil erodibility formulation. Recent enhancements to USDA-ARS soil erosion models employ more physically-based descriptions of erosion processes, which require the parametrization of soil properties, land use and land management, and hydrologic variables to calculate soil erodibility. Such information is lacking. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, tested three soils, ranging in clay and sand content, to develop a prediction tool for agricultural erosion. The results suggest that soil erodibility is impacted by the initiation of particle movement, clay content and the void ratio, while results for critical shear stress testing suggest that silt, void ratio and water potential best indicate the initiation of motion. These findings were recently implemented within the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation 2 (RUSLE2), which is used by USDA for improved conservation planning.

6. Effects of in-channel structural measures on urbanizing watershed sediment management in developing countries. Many studies have documented the impact of urbanization on stream channel erosion and its relationship to watershed characteristics and proximity to hardpoints like road crossings or bridges. However, very few studies have been conducted in semi-arid climates in developing countries experiencing rapid population growth, unregulated urban development on erodible soils, and variable enforcement of environmental regulations. ARS researchers at Oxford, Mississippi, in collaboration with researchers at San Diego State University, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the Ensenada Center for Scientific Research and Higher Education, Mexico, investigated urbanization and stream channel erosion in Tijuana, Mexico, through a mix of field topographic survey methods, and a comparison of channel geometry to undeveloped and urbanized watersheds in southern California. Proximity to upstream hardpoint, and lack of riparian and bank vegetation paired with highly erodible bed and bank materials were found to be the main cause of channel instabilities. Channel erosion due to urbanization accounts for approximately 25-40% of the total sediment budget for the watershed, and channel erosion downstream of hardpoints accounts for approximately 1/3rd of all channel erosion. This research has provided local and state watershed managers with improved guidelines to reduce sediment loads and yield through focusing on stabilizing the stream channel downstream of hardpoints, especially in areas with urban development adjacent to the stream channel.

Review Publications
Xu, X., Zheng, F., Wilson, G.V., He, C., Lu, J., Bian, F. 2018. Comparison of runoff and soil loss in different tillage systems in the Mollisol region of Northeast China. Soil & Tillage Research. 177 pp. 1-11.

Akay, O., Ozer, T., Fox, G.A., Wilson, G.V. 2018. Fiber reinforced sandy slopes under groundwater return flow. Journal of Irrigation and Drainage Engineering. 144(5):1-10. 10.1061/(ASCE)IR.1943-4774.0001300.

Momm, H.G., Bingner, R.L., Emilaire, R., Garbrecht, J.D., Wells, R.R., Kuhnle, R.A. 2017. Automated watershed subdivision for simulations using multi-objective optimization. Hydrological Sciences Journal. 62:10, 1564-1582 DOI: 10.1080/02626667.2017.1346794.

Gudino-Elizondo, N., Biggs, T., Castillo, C., Bingner, R.L., Langendoen, E.J., Taniguchi, K., Kretzschmar, T., Yuan, Y., Liden, D. 2018. Measuring ephemeral gully erosion rates and topographical thresholds in an urban watershed using unmanned aerial systems and structure-from-motion photogrammetric techniques. Land Degradation and Development. 29:1896-1905. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2976.

Liu, Q.J., Wells, R.R., Dabney, S.M., He, J.J. 2017. Effect of water potential and void ratio on erodibility for agricultural soils. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 81:622-632. doi:10.2136/sssaj2016.11.0369.

Kuhnle, R.A., Wren, D.G., Hilldale, R.C., Goodwiller, B.T., Carpenter, W.O. 2017. Laboratory calibration of impact plates for measuring gravel size and mass. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering. 143(12), 06017023 doi:10.1061/(ASCE)HY.1943-7900.0001391.

Ding, Y., Langendoen, E.J. 2018. Simulation and control of sediment transport due to dam removal. Journal of Applied Water Engineering Research. 6(2): 95-108. DOI: 10.1080/23249676.2016.1224691.

Zegeye, A.D., Langendoen, E.J., Guzman, C.D., Dagnew, D.C., Amare, S.D., Tilahun, S.A., Steenhuis, T.S. 2018. Gullies, a critical link in landscape soil loss: A case study in the subhumid highlands of Ethiopia. Land Degradation and Development. 29(4): 1222-1232. DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2875.

Taniguchi, K.T., Biggs, T.W., Langendoen, E.J., Castillo, C., Gudino-Elizondo, N., Yuan, Y., Liden, D. 2018. Stream channel erosion in a rapidly urbanizing region of the US-Mexico border: the documenting importance of channel hardpoints with structure-from-motion photogrammetry. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 43(7): 1465-1477. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4331.

Zimale, F.A., Tilahun, S.A., Tebebu, T.Y., Guzman, C.D., Hoang, L., Schneiderman, E.M., Langendoen, E.J., Steenhuis, T.S. 2017. Improving watershed management practices in humid regions. Hydrological Processes. 31(18): 3294-3301. DOI: 10.1002/hyp.11241.

Papanicolaou, A.N., Wilson, C.G., Tsakaris, A.G., Sutarto, T.E., Bertrand, F., Rinaldi, M., Dey, S., Langendoen, E.J. 2017. Understanding mass erosion processes along a bank profile: using the PEEP technology for quantifying retreat lengths and identifying the event timing. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 42(11): 1717-1732. DOI: 10.1002/esp.4138.

Addisie, M.B., Ayele, G.K., Gessess, A.A., Tilahun, S.A., Zegeye, A.D., Moges, M.M., Schmitter, P., Langendoen, E.J., Steenhuis, T.S. 2017. Gully head retreat in the sub-humid Ethiopian Highlands: The Ene-Chilala catchment. Land Degradation and Development. 28(5), 1579-1588.

Wells, R.R., Momm, H., Castillo, C. 2017. Quantifying uncertainty of remotely sensed topographic surveys for ephemeral gully channel monitoring. Earth Surface Dynamics. 5:347-367.

Karamigolbaghi, M.R., Ghaneeizad, S.M., Atkinson, J.F., Bennett, S.J., Wells, R.R. 2017. Critical assessment of jet erosion test methodologies for cohesive soil and sediment. Geomorphology. 295: 529-536.

Wren, D.G. 2018. 5.3.2 Optical measurements. In: Experimental Hydraulics: Flows, Methods, Instrumentation, Data Analysis & Management, Vol II Instrumentation and Measurement Techniques, M. Muste, J. Aberle, D. Admiraal, R. Ettema, M.H. Garcia, D. Lyn, V. Nikora, and C. Rennie (Eds.). CRC Press/Balkema. PP 280-283.

Addisie, M.B., Langendoen, E.J., Aynalem, D.W., Ayele, G.K., Tilahun, S.A., Schmitter, P., Mekuria, W., Moges, M.M., Steenhuis, T.S. 2018. Assessment of practices for controlling shallow valley-bottom gullies in the sub-humid Ethiopian highlands. Water. 10(4):389. 10.3390/w10040389.

Wells, R.R., Momm, H.G., Bennett, S.J., Gesch, K.R., Dabney, S.M., Cruse, R., Wilson, G.V. 2016. A measurement method for rill and ephemeral gully erosion assessments. Soil Science Society of America Journal. 80:203-214. doi:10.2136/sssaj2015.09.0820.

Momm, H.G., Wells, R.R., Bennett, S.J. 2017. Disaggregating soil erosion processes within an evolving experimental landscape. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms. 43(2):543-552. doi: 10.1002/esp.4268.

Qin, C., Zheng, F., Wells, R.R., Xu, X., Wang, B., Zhong, K. 2017. A laboratory study of channel sidewall expansion in upland concentrated flows. Soil and Tillage Research. 178:22-31.

Wren, D.G. 2017. 5.3.1 Physical sampling for suspended sediment. In: Experimental Hydraulics: Flows, Methods, Instrumentation, Data Analysis & Management, Vol II Instrumentation and Measurement Techniques, M. Muste, J. Aberle, D. Admiraal, R. Ettema, M.H. Garcia, D. Lyn, V. Nikora, and C. Rennie (Eds.). CRC Press/Balkema. PP 276-279.