Field experiments for understanding and quantification of rill erosion processes

S. Wirtz, K.M. Seeger, J.B. Ries

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

133 Citations (Scopus)


Despite many efforts over the last decades to understand rill erosion processes, they remain unclear. This paper presents the results of rill experiments accomplished in Andalusia in September 2008 using a novel experimental set up. 72 L of water are introduced with an intensity of 9 L min(-1) into a rill. Rill cross sections, slope values, flow velocities and sediment concentrations were measured and these values were used to calculate sediment detachment and transport. Each experiment was repeated once within 15 min. With this new experimental setup it is possible to calculate several hydraulic parameters like hydraulic radius, wetted perimeter, flow cross section, transport rate and transport capacity which are usually estimated from coarse flow and rill parameters. In rill experiments, four different natural rills were flooded with the same experimental setup. Several processes like transport of loose material, erosion, bank failure and knickpoint retreat and the runoff effectiveness showed different and variable intensities. The sediment concentrations ranged between 5.2 and 438 g L-1. most cases, detachment rates are close to the transport capacity and, in some cases, the transport capacity is even exceeded. This can be explained by the occurrence of different erosion processes within a rill (e.g. detachment, bank failure, and headcut retreat) which are not all explained by the given equations. The results suggest that the existing soil erosion equations based on shear forces exerted by the flowing water are not able to describe rill erosion processes satisfactory. Too many different processes with a high spatial and temporal variability are responsible for rill development. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-34
Issue numberApril
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • concentrated flow erosion
  • ephemeral gully erosion
  • soil-erosion
  • sediment transport
  • interrill erosion
  • rainfall simulation
  • water erosion
  • slope length
  • shallow flow
  • detachment


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