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A Saturation Excess Erosion Model

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

Citation:  Transactions of the ASABE. 56(2): 681-695. (doi: 10.13031/2013.42675) @2013
Authors:   Seifu Admassu Tilahun, Rajith Mukundan, Bezawit A. Demisse, Tegenu A. Engda, Christian D. Guzman, Birara C. Tarakegn, Zachary M. Easton, Amy S. Collick, Assefa D. Zegeye, Elliot M. Schneiderman, Jean-Yves Parlange, Tammo S. Steenhuis
Keywords:   Monsoon climates Partial area hydrology Sediment USLE Variable source areas.

Abstract. Scaling-up sediment transport has been problematic because most sediment loss models (e.g., the Universal Soil Loss Equation) are developed using data from small plots where runoff is generated by infiltration excess. However, in most watersheds, runoff is produced by saturation excess processes. In this article, we improve an earlier saturation excess erosion model that was only tested on a limited basis, in which runoff and erosion originated from periodically saturated and severely degraded areas, and apply it to five watersheds over a wider geographical area. The erosion model is based on a semi-distributed hydrology model that calculates saturation excess runoff, interflow, and baseflow. In the development of the erosion model, a linear relationship between sediment concentration and velocity in surface runoff is assumed. Baseflow and interflow are sediment free. Initially during the rainy season in Ethiopia, when the fields are being plowed, the sediment concentration in the river is limited by the ability of the surface runoff to move sediment. Later in the season, the sediment concentration becomes limited by the availability of sediment. To show the general applicability of the Saturation Excess Erosion Model (SEEModel), the model was tested for watersheds located 10,000 km apart, in the U.S. and in Ethiopia. In the Ethiopian highlands, we simulated the 1.1 km2 Anjeni watershed, the 4.8 km2 Andit Tid watershed, the 4.0 km2 Enkulal watershed, and the 174,000 km2 Blue Nile basin. In the Catskill Mountains in New York State, the sediment concentrations were simulated in the 493 km2 upper Esopus Creek watershed. Discharge and sediment concentration averaged over 1 to 10 days were well simulated over the range of scales with comparable parameter sets. The Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE) values for the validation runs for the stream discharge were between 0.77 and 0.92. Sediment concentrations had NSE values ranging from 0.56 to 0.86 using only four calibrated sediment parameters together with the subsurface and surface runoff discharges calculated by the hydrology model. The model results suggest that correctly predicting both surface runoff and subsurface flow is an important step in simulating sediment concentrations.

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