Contribution of raindrop impact to the change of soil physical properties and water erosion under semi-arid rainfalls

Ali Reza Vaezi*, Morvarid Ahmadi, Artemio Cerda Bolinches

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

69 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Soil erosion by water is a three-phase process that consists of detachment of soil particles from the soil mass, transportation of detached particles either by raindrop impact or surface water flow, and sedimentation. Detachment by raindrops is a key component of the soil erosion process. However, little information is available on the role of raindrop impact on soil losses in the semi-arid regions where vegetation cover is often poor and does not protect the soil from rainfall. The objective of this study is to determine the contribution of raindrop impact to changes in soil physical properties and soil losses in a semiarid weakly-aggregated agricultural soil. Soil losses were measured under simulated rainfalls of 10, 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70mmh-1, and under two conditions: i) with raindrop impact; and, ii) without raindrop impact. Three replications at each rainfall intensity and condition resulted in a total of 42 microplots of 1m×1.4m installed on a 10% slope according to a randomized complete block design. The contribution of raindrop impact to soil loss was computed using the difference between soil loss with raindrop impact and without raindrop impact at each rainfall intensity. Soil physical properties (aggregate size, bulk density and infiltration rate) were strongly damaged by raindrop impact as rainfall intensity increased. Soil loss was significantly affected by rainfall intensity under both soil surface conditions. The contribution of raindrop impact to soil loss decreased steadily with increasing rainfall intensity. At the lower rainfall intensities (20-30mmh-1), raindrop impact was the dominant factor controlling soil loss from the plots (68%) while at the higher rainfall intensities (40-70mmh-1) soil loss was mostly affected by increasing runoff discharge. At higher rainfall intensities the sheet flow protected the soil from raindrop impact.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)382-392
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume583
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Keywords

  • Aggregate stability
  • Crust formation
  • Infiltration rate
  • Runoff
  • Semi-arid region

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