Skip to main content
ARS Home » Southeast Area » Oxford, Mississippi » National Sedimentation Laboratory » Watershed Physical Processes Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #308350

Research Project: Technologies for Managing Water and Sediment Movement in Agricultural Watersheds

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research

Title: Soil erosion on upland areas by rainfall and overland flow

Author
item Romkens, Mathias
item Wells, Robert - Rob
item WANG, BIN - Beijing Forestry University
item ZHENG, FENLI - Northwest Agriculture And Forestry University
item HICKEY, CRAIG - University Of Mississippi

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 9/8/2014
Publication Date: 2/1/2015
Citation: Romkens, M.J., Wells, R.R., Wang, B., Zheng, F., Hickey, C.J. 2015. Soil erosion on upland areas by rainfall and overland flow, pp. 361-405. In Yang, C. T. Y. and Wang, L. K. (eds.) Advances in Water Resources Engineering, Springer. 556 pp. 2015.

Interpretive Summary: Handbooks are designed to present technique or methodology of a subject matter to the readership. Erosion on upland areas is a highly complex process, the analysis of which has evolved over more than 75 years of research. Several handbooks on this subject matter have been written at different stages of development. They were mostly intended to assist soil conservation practitioners. This handbook is more limited in scope and was written to support and familiarize the civil engineering community with the technology of upland erosion research. This chapter primarily discusses the soil erodibility factor and the hydrologic aspects of the most widely used erosion prediction equations, the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP). It also includes a presentation of the Chinese approach of predicting gully erosion using the RUSLE framework. Finally, the chapter includes a discussion of the emerging gully erosion measuring technology using LiDAR and photogammetry.

Technical Abstract: Soil erosion in agricultural watersheds is a systemic problem that has plagued mankind ever since the practice of agriculture began some 9,000 years ago. It is a worldwide problem, the severity of which varies from location to location depending on weather, soil type, topography, cropping practices, and control methods. Research to address and predict soil loss from agricultural land and in watersheds began in earnest in the 1930s following events of the Dust Bowl. Early research primarily consisted of monitoring of soil loss from natural runoff plots and small watersheds. Gradually and over time the focus shifted toward the development of prediction equations based on the acquired soil loss database. With computer technology, modeling watershed erosion and sedimentation processes became routine. Also, fundamental research was conducted to acquire a better understanding of the complex aspects of soil erosion and sediment transport processes and to fill in knowledge gaps in cases where data were not readily available. In recent years, most soil loss from upland areas occurs as gully erosion. This chapter presents a background of the knowledge that was systematically acquired in predicting soil erosion from upland areas and the technology that was developed and is used today. This chapter does not address all aspects of upland soil erosion, but focuses primarily on the erodibility (K-factor) and hydrological aspects (R-factor) of the most widely used erosion prediction equations: the RUSLE2 and WEPP models based formulae. This chapter also includes a presentation of the Chinese approach of adapting gully erosion predictions according to the USLE format. Finally, ongoing research and technology development using LiDAR and photogammetry in gully erosion predictions is discussed.