Measuring sheet erosion using synthetic color-contrast aggregates

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The bulk of eroded soils measured at the outlets of plots, slopes and watersheds are suspended sediments, splash-induced sheet erosion. It is depending on rainfall intensity and antecedent soil moisture contents and contributes to a significant proportion of soil loss that usually is ignored in soil erosion and sediment studies. A digital image processing method for tracing and measuring non-suspended soil particles detached/transported by splash/runoff was therefore used in the present study. Accordingly, fine mineral pumice grains aggregated with white cement and coloured with yellow pigment powder, with the same size, shape and specific gravity as those of natural soil aggregates, called synthetic color-contrast aggregates, were used as tracers for detecting soil particle movement. Subsequently, the amount of non-suspended soil particles detached and moved downward the slope was inferred with the help of digital image processing techniques using MATLAB R2010B software (Mathworks, Natick, Massachusetts, USA). The present study was conducted under laboratory conditions with four simulated rainfall intensities between 30–90 mm h-1, five antecedent soil moisture contents between 12–44 % v v-1 and a slope of 30%, using sandy loam soils taken from a summer rangeland in the Alborz Mountains, Northern Iran. A range of total transported soil between 90.34 and 1360.93 g m-2 and net splash erosion between 36.82 and 295.78 g m-2were observed. The results also showed the sediment redeposition ratio ranging from 87.27% [sediment delivery ratio (SDR) = 12.73%] to 96.39% (SDR = 3.61%) in various antecedent soil moisture contents of rainfall intensity of 30 mm h-1 and from 80.55% (SDR = 19.45%) to 89.42% (SDR = 10.58%) in rainfall intensity of 90 mm h-1. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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