Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #213628


item Flanagan, Dennis

Submitted to: Journal of Soil and Water Conservation
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 6/28/2007
Publication Date: 1/23/2008
Citation: Gaffer, R.L., Flanagan, D.C., Denight, M.L., Engel, B.A. 2008. GIS erosion assessment at a military training site. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation. 63(1):1-10.

Interpretive Summary: Soil erosion can be greatly increased when military vehicles or troop traffic disturb soil and cover in training areas. An ever important concern for the Department of Defense (DOD) is to cause minimal environmental impacts through any of their activities, particularly training exercises. Since it is not practical to directly measure how much soil erosion may be increased by troop and vehicle traffic on roads and trails, this study used two different computer simulation methods to estimate how much soil loss would be impacted by military activities. The study site was a U.S. Army camp in south-central Indiana. Geographic Information System (GIS) software was used with a modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), and also with the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model. Soil loss was estimated under two conditions: continuous bare tilled fallow and existing management as identified by remotely-sensed information. The model predictions of soil loss were compared to visual evaluations of soil erosion conditions at 75 points on roads and trails at the army camp. Both modeling techniques identified areas of erosion similar to the visual evaluations, showing that they can be used as planning tools by the DOD. This study impacts military training facility managers, military trainees, foresters, and others involved in minimizing impacts of vehicle traffic on soil erosion. The ability to rapidly assess areas of military training sites to protect from traffic, and others where higher levels of activities will not as greatly affect soil loss can be of significant benefit to the DOD and others as they try to conduct their primary mission of defending the United States, while also protecting the soil and water resources on their training lands.

Technical Abstract: U.S. military training facilities often experience significant environmental damage from soil erosion. Much of this erosion occurs on roads and trails created by repeated military vehicle traffic during training operations. If the roads are located on steep slopes or in areas of concentrated runoff, soil loss can be large. A Geographic Information System (GIS) software package and a modified Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) were used to estimate erosion potential at Camp Atterbury located in south central Indiana. GeoWEPP (Geospatial interface to the Water Erosion Prediction Project model) was also used to estimate soil loss for the camp. Each erosion estimate was overlain with the roads and trails map. Estimated erosion levels on the camp’s traffic-ways with the USLE and GeoWEPP methods were then evaluated with on-site inspections of erosion conditions at Camp Atterbury. A significant correlation was found between predicted and observed erosion for both the modified USLE and GeoWEPP methods. The statistical significance for the USLE and GeoWEPP procedures allows their use in estimating erosion potential for unimproved roads and trails with confidence.