Journal article

Influence of rock fragment coverage on soil erosion and hydrological response: Laboratory flume experiments and modeling

Two laboratory flume experiments on the effect of surface rock fragments on precipitation-driven soil erosion yields were carried out. The total sediment concentration, the concentration of seven individual size classes and the flow discharge were measured. Digital terrain models (DTMs) were generated before and after one of the experiments. The results revealed that the rock fragments protected the soils from raindrop detachment and retarded the overland flow, therefore decreasing its sediment transport capacity. Rock fragments were found to affect selectively the different size classes in a manner that changed according to the time scale. For short times, the rock fragment coverage reduced erosion of the finer particles (< 20 µm). For the mid-size classes the protection decreased, while erosion of the larger size classes (> 100 µm) was unaffected. At long times the rock fragment cover decreased the concentration of the individual size classes in proportion to effective rainfall intensity and the area exposed to raindrops. An area-based modification of the Hairsine and Rose (H-R) soil erosion model was employed to analyze the experimental data. The H-R model predictions agreed well with the measured sediment concentrations when high rainfall intensity and low rock fragment cover were used. Predictions were instead less accurate with low rainfall intensity and high rock fragment cover. The DTM results showed that the presence of rock fragments on the soil surface led to increased soil compaction, perhaps due to higher soil moisture content (from greater infiltration) within the rock fragment-covered flumes.

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