Hillslope runoff and erosion on duplex soils in grazing lands in semi-arid central Queensland. III. USLE erodibility (K factors) and cover-soil loss relationships

David Silburn

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Measured Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) soil erodibility (K) values are not available for soils in grazing lands in northern Australia. The K values extrapolated from croplands are used in national and river-basin scale assessments of hillslope erosion, using an assumption that the cover factor (C) equals 0.45 for undisturbed (uncultivated) bare soil. Thus, the K needed for input into the models is the measured K for undisturbed soil (KU) divided by 0.45. Runoff and erosion data were available for 7 years on 12 hillslope plots with cover of 10-80%, with and without grazing, with and without tree canopy cover, on a variety of soils according to various soil classification systems. Soils were grouped into those derived from sandstone (SS), mudstone (MS), and eroded mudstone (MSe). These data were used to determine USLE KU, K, and C factor-cover relationships. Methods used to fit the parameters affected the results; minimising the sum of squares of errors in soil losses gave better results than fitting an exponential equation. The USLE LS (length-slope) factor explained the increase in measured average annual soil loss with slope, for plots with low cover. Erodibility (K) was 0.042 for SS and MS soils, irrespective of Australian Soil Classification (Chromosol, Kandosol, Rudosol, Sodosol, Tenosol); K was 0.062 for exposed, decomposing mudstone (MSe Leptic Rudosol). The measured K factor for SS and MS soils was close to that used in catchment-wide soil loss estimation for the site (0.039). This indicates that the method used for estimating K from soil properties (derived from cultivated soils) gave a reasonable estimate of K for the main duplex soils at the study site, as long as the correction for undisturbed soil is used in deriving K from measured data and in applying the USLE model. A 20% increase in K (0.050) for SS and MS soils may be warranted for heavy grazing by cattle. The C factor-cover relationship was different from the standard revised USLE (RUSLE) relationship, requiring a greater exponent ('bcov') of 0.075, rather than the default for cropland of 0.035. Increasing cover is therefore more effective at the site than suggested by the USLE. Parameters of USLE were also derived for bedload, allowing suspended load to be calculated by subtracting bedload from total soil loss. © CSIRO 2011.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127-134
Number of pages8
JournalSoil Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Externally publishedYes


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