Extension of a GIS procedure for calculating the RUSLE equation LS factor

H. Zhang, Q. Yang, R. Li, Q. Liu, D. Moore, P. He, C.J. Ritsema, V. Geissen

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

    153 Citations (Scopus)


    The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) and revised USLE (RUSLE) are often used to estimate soil erosion at regional landscape scales, however a major limitation is the difficulty in extracting the LS factor. The geographic information system-based (GIS-based) methods which have been developed for estimating the LS factor for USLE and RUSLE also have limitations. The unit contributing area-based estimation method (UCA) converts slope length to unit contributing area for considering two-dimensional topography, however is not able to predict the different zones of soil erosion and deposition. The flowpath and cumulative cell length-based method (FCL) overcomes this disadvantage but does not consider channel networks and flow convergence in two-dimensional topography. The purpose of this research was to overcome these limitations and extend the FCL method through inclusion of channel networks and convergence flow. We developed LS-TOOL in Microsoft's.NET environment using C¿ with a user-friendly interface. Comparing the LS factor calculated with the three methodologies (UCA, FCL and LS-TOOL), LS-TOOL delivers encouraging results. In particular, LS-TOOL uses breaks in slope identified from the DEM to locate soil erosion and deposition zones, channel networks and convergence flow areas. Comparing slope length and LS factor values generated using LS-TOOL with manual methods, LS-TOOL corresponds more closely with the reality of the Xiannangou catchment than results using UCA or FCL. The LS-TOOL algorithm can automatically calculate slope length, slope steepness, L factor, S factor, and LS factors, providing the results as ASCII files which can be easily used in some GIS software. This study is an important step forward in conducting more accurate large area erosion evaluation.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)177-188
    JournalComputers and Geosciences
    Publication statusPublished - 2013


    • soil loss equation
    • digital elevation models
    • length-slope factor
    • topographic parameters
    • drainage networks
    • terrain models
    • prediction
    • erosion
    • algorithms
    • extraction


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