Assessment of soil factors controlling ephemeral gully erosion on agricultural fields
Abstract The soil factor is crucial in controlling and properly modeling the initiation and development of ephemeral gullies (EGs). Usually, EG initiation has been related to various soil properties (i.e. sealing, critical shear stress, moisture, texture, etc.); meanwhile, the total growth of each EG (erosion rate) has been linked with proper soil erodibility. But, despite the studies to determine the influence of soil erodibility on (ephemeral) gully erosion, a universal approach is still lacking. This is due to the complex relationship and interactions between soil properties and the erosive process. A feasible soil characterization of EG erosion prediction on a large scale should be based on simple, quick and inexpensive tests to perform. The objective of this study was to identify and assess the soil properties – easily and quickly to determine – which best reflect soil erodibility on EG erosion. Forty‐nine different physical–chemical soil properties that may participate in establishing soil erodibility were determined on agricultural soils affected by the formation of EGs in Spain and Italy. Experiments were conducted in the laboratory and in the field (in the vicinity of the erosion paths). Because of its importance in controlling EG erosion, five variables related to antecedent moisture prior to the event that generated the gullies and two properties related to landscape topography were obtained for each situation. The most relevant variables were detected using multivariate analysis. The results defined 13 key variables: water content before the initiation of EGs, organic matter content, cation exchange capacity, relative sealing index, two granulometric and organic matter indices, seal permeability, aggregates stability (three index), crust penetration resistance, shear strength and an erodibility index obtained from the Jet Test erosion apparatus. The latter is proposed as a useful technique to evaluate and predict soil loss caused by EG erosion. Copyright ⓒ 2018 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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