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

Location: Southwest Watershed Research Center

Title: A GIS-based procedure for automatically calculating soil loss from the Universal Soil Loss Equation: GISus-M

Author
item OLIVEIRA, J.D.A. - Federal University Of Bahia Reconcavo
item DOMINGUEZ, J.M.L. - Federal University Of Bahia Reconcavo
item Nearing, Mark
item OLIVEIRA, P.T.S. - Federal University Of Bahia Reconcavo

Submitted to: American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 8/1/2015
Publication Date: 12/7/2015
Citation: Oliveira, J., Dominguez, J., Nearing, M.A., Oliveira, P. 2015. A GIS-based procedure for automatically calculating soil loss from the Universal Soil Loss Equation: GISus-M. American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. 31(6):907-917. https://doi.org/10.13031/aea.31.11093.
DOI: https://doi.org/10.13031/aea.31.11093

Interpretive Summary: The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), developed by USDA scientists, is the world’s most widely used tool for calculating soil erosion rates by water. The equation calculates estimated soil loss rates as a function of rainfall erosivity, soil erodibility, the effect of vegetation cover and management, and the steepness and lengths of hill slopes. Geographical Information Systems are used routinely now to conduct analyses and representation of many different types of spatially distributed characteristics of the landscape. The work represented in this article is a plug-in module for the most commonly used GIS software, ArcGIS Desktop, which allows the user to apply the USLE across large areas. The tool allows the user to construct the data bases and automatically make the calculations necessary for building the layers, which are the spatial maps of information used in the equation, and then calculating estimated soil erosion rates over the area of interest. It also allows the user to map and visualize results. Information for vegetation cover is generated from readily available remotely sensed satellite data, and factors of slope steepness and length are derived from available topographic information. Soil and rainfall erosivity information may be incorporated from many sources. The tool provides a variety of options for making calculations of input values for the equation, dependent on the environment being assessed. This tool is easy to use and readily available, and would be valuable for a wide variety of applications associated with soil conservation and land management.

Technical Abstract: The integration of methods for calculating soil loss caused by water erosion using a geoprocessing system is important to enable investigations of soil erosion over large areas. GIS-based procedures have been used in soil erosion studies; however in most cases it is difficult to integrate the functionality in a single system tool to compute all soil loss factors. We developed a system able to combine all factors of the Universal Soil Loss Equation with the computer functionality of a GIS. The GISus-M provides tools to compute the topographic (LS-factor) and cover and management (C-factor) from methods using remote sensing data. The other factors necessary to use the USLE, including soil erodibility, rainfall erosivity, and conservation practices, are also integrated in this tool. We describe in detail the GISus-M system and show its application in the Ribeirão do Salto sub-basin. From our proposed system it is possible to work with different types of databases, making the GIS-procedure proposed a useful tool to researchers and decision makers to use spatial data and different methods to create future scenarios of soil erosion risk.