Sediment delivery from hillslopes and the universal soil loss equation: Some perceptions and misconceptions

Peter I.A. Kinnell

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    31 Citations (Scopus)


    The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) or the revised USLE (RUSLE) are often used together with sediment delivery ratios in order to predict sediment delivery from hillslopes. In using sediment delivery ratios for this purpose, it is assumed that the sediment delivery ratio for a given hillslope does not vary with the amount of erosion occurring in the upslope area. This assumption is false. There is a perception that hillslope erosion is calculated on the basis that hillslopes are, in effect, simply divided into 22-1 in long segments. This perception fails to recognize the fact the inclusion of the 22-1 m length in the calculation has no physical significance but simply produces a value of 1-0 for the slope length factor when slopes have a length equal to that of the unit plot. There is a perception that the slope length factor is inappropriate because not all the dislodged sediment is discharged. This perception fails to recognize that the USLE and the RUSLE actually predict sediment yield from planar surfaces, not the total amount of soil material dislocated and removed some distance by erosion within an area. The application of the USLE/RUSLE to hillslopes also needs to take into account the fact that runoff may not be generated uniformly over that hillslope. This can be achieved by an equation for the slope length factor that takes account of spatial variations in upslope runoff on soil loss from a segment or grid cell. Several alternatives to the USLE event erosivity index have been proposed in order to predict event erosion better than can be achieved using the EI30 index. Most ignore the consequences of changing the event erosivity index on the values for the soil, crop and soil conservation protection factors because there is a misconception that these factors are independent of one another.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)3168-3175
    Number of pages8
    JournalHydrological Processes
    Issue number16
    Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2008


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