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Assessing RUSLE and Hill-slope Soil Movement Modeling in the Central Appalachians

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2010 Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, June 20 - June 23, 2010  1008503.(doi:10.13031/2013.29634)
Authors:   Jingxin Wang, Pam J Edwards, Greg W Hamons, William A Goff
Keywords:   Appalachian Forests, Soil Erosion, RUSLE, Timber Harvesting, Best Management Practices

The determination of the topographical attributes responsible for the origination and transfer of sediment were investigated in a central Appalachian mixed hardwood forest from 2002 through 2005. Two study watersheds were chosen on the left fork of Clover Run within the Indian Run watershed in Tucker County, West Virginia. Silt fence was installed around all the stream channels within both watersheds to ensure all sediment material delivered from adjacent hill-slopes was captured and collected. Visual, physical, and spatial observations were made before, during, and after road construction within the treatment watershed. Data were analyzed both spatially and statistically to determine the magnitude of effects from the topographical attributes, the road construction, and the harvesting operations on sediment delivery to the stream channel. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was tested to compare modeled results to field measured results under these mountainous conditions. The soil loss equation displayed poor accuracy, yielding predictions hundreds of times larger than the actual masses of collected data. The modeled estimate for the treatment watershed was 2.68 tons per-acre per-year, while the modeled estimate for the control watershed was 2.86 tons per-acre per-year. However, the treatment watershed actually produced 0.01, 0.02, 0.03 and 0.01 tons per-acre, respectively; while the control watershed produced 0.002, 0.001, 0.005, and 0.003 tons per-acre, respectively, for 2002 through 2005. The poor performance of the RUSLE may be attributed to several factors, particularly the extremely variable conditions that exist within Appalachian forested watersheds which may reach outside the predictive capabilities of the RUSLE.

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