Gully and sheet erosion on subtropical mountain slopes : their respective roles and the scale effect

Abstract : As most mountains in tropical and subtropical zones, the Western Sierra Madre suffers active present erosion, which may create some constraints to the social and economic development in the area. The objectives of this study of soil degradation in the Western Sierra Madre, are to determine the respective roles of gully and sheet erosion. This research is based on field observations, field measurements of runoff and, soil losses at the plot, as well as the watershed scales as an analysis of an exhaustive census of the few gullies located in an experimental area. Measured soil losses in the Western Sierra Madre are high although there are few gullies. Most of the sediment yield seems to originate in widespread degraded areas where stoniness is the main evidence of a previous stage of erosion. Previously overgrazing and deforestation were determined as the factors of the appearance of new soil surface characteristics which explain the high runoff and sediment productions. The soil compacted by cattle trampling reduces infiltration. The decrease of the vegetation cover triggers a rise in the splash effect and thus, a soil sealing. These processes induce an increase in runoff and soil losses. The main erosion type has been described as sheet erosion: it is characterised by the removal of fine soil particles and the remains of gravels, pebbles and blocks, which constitute a pavement on the soil. Gullies generally appear on the bottom of wide valleys and depressions, where soils are thick. It is shown that sheet erosion is two orders of magnitude higher than gully erosion at the hillslope scale. Due to the spatial distribution of land use and the geological context such as the heavily degraded areas close to the main rivers, the reduction of runoff and soil loss rates within the extension of a considered area, commonly observed in hydrology, only applies up to the elementary catchments scale (1 to 50 km 2). Above this area, runoff coefficient and soil loss rates increase.
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Submitted on : Wednesday, June 12, 2019 - 11:50:52 AM
Last modification on : Monday, September 2, 2019 - 2:46:08 PM

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Luc Descroix, Jose Luis González Barrios, D. Viramontes, J. Poulenard, E. Anaya, et al.. Gully and sheet erosion on subtropical mountain slopes : their respective roles and the scale effect. CATENA, Elsevier, 2008, 72 (3), pp.325-339. ⟨10.1016/j.catena.2007.07.003⟩. ⟨ird-02153502⟩

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