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ARS Home » Midwest Area » West Lafayette, Indiana » National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #377255

Research Project: Conservation Practice Impacts on Water Quality at Field and Watershed Scales

Location: National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory

Title: Chapter 16 - Rainfall erosivity: Essential historical, conceptual, and practical perspectives for continued application

item MCGEHEE, RYAN - Purdue University
item Flanagan, Dennis
item Nearing, Mark
item SRIVASTAVA, PUNEET - Auburn University

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: 4/22/2021
Publication Date: 9/7/2021
Citation: Mcgehee, R.P., Flanagan, D.C., Nearing, M.A., Srivastava, P. 2021. Chapter 16 - Rainfall erosivity: Essential historical, conceptual, and practical perspectives for continued application. Book Chapter. pp. 373-394.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Rainfall erosivity, simply defined, is a characteristic measure of the capacity of rainfall to cause soil erosion by water. A large value for erosivity does not guarantee large amounts of erosion, but if no soil conservation practices are in place, soil loss will be more likely. A small value would indicate the reverse. Erosivity is an empirically defined measure, and it has been found to be highly correlated to event-based soil loss on natural rainfall erosion plots (R2 > 0.9; Wischmeier and Smith, 1959). It is one of six components of the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) that formed the backbone of water-driven soil erosion science for more than half-a-century in the United States and around the world. Still today many soil conservation planning efforts utilize USLE-based technologies to manage soil loss in agricultural and other erosion-prone land use cases. This chapter aims to provide historical, conceptual, and practical background information that will continue to be critical for continued application of erosivity theory, especially in light of increasingly diverse precipitation data streams. A few examples are provided at the end of the chapter to demonstrate obvious and not-so-obvious issues to avoid as well as potential ways to work around these issues. Ideally, concepts addressed in this chapter can be applied in practice to improve both accuracy and reproducibility of erosivity estimations and the erosion modeling outcomes and programs that depend on them.