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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Oxford, Mississippi » National Sedimentation Laboratory » Watershed Physical Processes Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #335470

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

Location: Watershed Physical Processes Research

Title: Gully head retreat in the sub-humid Ethiopian Highlands: The Ene-Chilala catchment

Author
item ADDISIE, MESERET - Bahir Dar University
item AYELE, GETANEH - Bahir Dar University
item GESSESS, AZALU - Bahir Dar University
item TILAHUN, SEIFU - Bahir Dar University
item ZEGEYE, ASSEFA - Bahir Dar University
item MOGES, MIKAEL - Bahir Dar University
item SCHMITTER, PETRA - International Water Management Institute
item Langendoen, Eddy
item STEENHUIS, TAMMO - Cornell University - New York

Submitted to: Land Degradation and Development
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 12/25/2016
Publication Date: 7/1/2017
Citation: 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. http://doi.org/10.1002/ldr.2688.

Interpretive Summary: Controlling gully erosion in the sub humid northern highlands of Ethiopia remains a challenge as conventional control measures such as check dams have not been effective. Scientists from the USDA, ARS, National Sedimentation Laboratory in collaboration with researchers from Cornell University, International Water Management Institute and Bahir Dar University, Ethiopia, have initiated a long-term study in the Birr watershed to better understand the regional gully erosion processes and to prevent gully head retreat. As part of the study the hydro-geomorphical processes of twelve gully heads were monitored during the 2014 and 2015 rainy monsoon phase. Two active gully head cuts were treated in 2014 and an additional three head cuts in 2015 by regrading their slope and covering it with stone riprap. In general, the gullies in this humid climate were actively eroding due to high groundwater elevation. The regraded gully heads with stone cover remained in place. Conservation practices that lower both the water table and protect the gully heads can therefore play a key role in reducing gully expansion and soil loss due to gully erosion in the Ethiopian highlands.

Technical Abstract: In the northern highlands of Ethiopia, gully erosion is severe. Despite many efforts to implement gully prevention measures, controlling gully erosion remains a challenge. The objective is to better understand the regional gully erosion processes and to prevent gully head retreat. The study was conducted in the Ene-Chilala catchment in the sub-humid headwaters of the Birr river located southwest of Bahir Dar, Ethiopia. Twelve gully heads were monitored during the 2014 and 2015 rainy monsoon phase. We measured gully head morphology and retreat length, soil shear strength, ground water table levels and catchment physical characteristics. Two active gully head cuts were treated in 2014 and an additional three head cuts in 2015 by regrading their slope to 45 degrees and covering it with stone riprap. In general, the gullies in this humid climate were actively eroding due to high groundwater elevation. The maximum gully head retreat of the untreated gullies was 22.5 m, of which about half occurred in August when the surrounding soil was saturated. The regraded gully heads with stone cover remained in place. Lowering both the water table and protecting the gully heads can play a key role in reducing gully expansion and soil loss due to gully erosion in the Ethiopian highlands.