Cesium-137-based erosion-rate determination of a steep mountainous region

Konz, N. and Schaub, M. and Prasuhn, V. and Bänninger, D. and Alewell, C.. (2009) Cesium-137-based erosion-rate determination of a steep mountainous region. Journal of plant nutrition and soil science, Vol. 172, No. 5. pp. 615-622.

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Official URL: http://edoc.unibas.ch/dok/A5251144

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Data on quantification of erosion rates in alpine grasslands remain scarce but are urgently needed to estimate soil degradation. We determined soil-erosion rates based on (CS)-C-137 in situ measurements. The method integrates soil erosion over the last 22 y (time after the Chernobyl accident). Measured erosion rates were compared with erosion rates modeled with the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE). The comparison was done in order to find out if the USLE is a useful tool for erosion prediction in steep mountainous grassland systems. Three different land-use types were investigated: hayfields, pasture with dwarf shrubs, and pasture without dwarf shrubs. Our test plots are situated in the Urseren Valley (Central Switzerland) with a mean slope steepness of 37 degrees. Mean annual soil-erosion rates determined with (CS)-C-137 of the investigated sites ranged between the minimum of 4.7 t ha(-1) y(-1) for pastures with dwarf shrubs to <30 t ha(-1) y(-1) at hayfields and pastures without dwarf shrubs. The determined erosion rates are 10 to 20 times higher compared to previous measurements in alpine regions. Our measurements integrated over the last 22 y, including extreme rainfall events as well as winter processes, whereas previous studies mostly reported erosion rates based on summer time and short-term rainfall simulation experiments. These results lead to the assumption that heavy-rainfall events as well as erosion processes during winter time and early spring do have a considerable influence on the high erosion amounts that were measured. The latter can be confirmed by photographs of damaged plots after snowmelt. Erosion rates based on the LISLE are in the same order of magnitude compared to Cs-137-based results for the land-use type "pasture with dwarf shrubs". However, erosion amounts on hayfields and pasture without dwarf shrubs are underestimated by the LISLE compared to Cs-137-based erosion rates. We assume that the underestimation is due to winter processes that cause soil erosion on sites without dwarf shrubs that is not considered by the USLE. Dwarf shrubs may possibly prevent from damage of soil erosion through winter processes. The USLE is not able to perform well on the affected sites. Thus, a first attempt was done to create an alpine factor for the USLE based on the measured data.
Faculties and Departments:05 Faculty of Science > Departement Umweltwissenschaften > Geowissenschaften > Umweltgeowissenschaften (Alewell)
UniBasel Contributors:Alewell, Christine
Item Type:Article, refereed
Article Subtype:Research Article
Publisher:Verlag Chemie
Note:Publication type according to Uni Basel Research Database: Journal article
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Last Modified:22 Mar 2012 14:28
Deposited On:22 Mar 2012 14:04

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