Infoscience

Journal article

Effect of antecedent conditions and fixed rock fragment coverage on soil erosion dynamics through multiple rainfall events

The effect of antecedent conditions and specific rock fragment coverage on precipitation-driven soil erosion dynamics through multiple rainfall events was investigated using a pair of 6-m × 1-m flumes with 2.2% slope. Four sequential experiments – denoted E1, E2, E3 and E4, involved 2-h precipitation (rates of 28, 74, 74 and 28 mm h-1, respectively) and 22 h without rainfall – were conducted. In each experiment, one flume was bare while the other had 40% rock fragment coverage. The soil was hand-cultivated and smoothed before the first event (E1) only, and left untouched subsequently. Sediment yields at the flume exit reached steady-state conditions over time scales that increased with sediment size. Experiments were designed such that both steady and non-steady effluent sediment yields were reached at the conclusion of E1. Results from subsequent experiments showed that short-time soil erosion was dependent on whether steady-state erosion was achieved during the preceding event, although consistent steady-state effluent sediment yields were reached for each sediment size class. Steady-state erosion rates were, however, dependent on the rainfall intensity and its duration. If steady-state sediment yields were reached for a particular size class, that class’s effluent sediment yield peaked rapidly in the next rainfall event. The early peak was followed by a gradual decline to the steady-state condition. On the other hand, for size classes in which steady state was not reached at the end of the rainfall event (i.e., E1), in the following event (E2), the sediment yields for those classes increased gradually to steady state, i.e., the sharp peak was not observed. The effect of rock fragment cover (40%) on the soil surface was also found to be significant in terms of the time to reach steady state, i.e., their presence reduced the time for steady conditions to be attained. Effluent sediment yields for the bare and rock fragment-covered flumes (E1) showed steady conditions were reached for the latter, in contrast to the former. We used the Hairsine-Rose (H-R) model to simulate the experimental data as it explicitly models soil particle size classes. Experiments E1 and E2 involved soil compaction by raindrops, and in this case the model predictions were found to be unsatisfactory. However, compaction was effectively completed by the end of experiment E2, and the model provided reasonable predictions for experiments E3 and E4.

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