Articles | Volume 15, issue 7
22 Jul 2011
 | 22 Jul 2011

The effect of slope steepness and antecedent moisture content on interrill erosion, runoff and sediment size distribution in the highlands of Ethiopia

M. B. Defersha, S. Quraishi, and A. Melesse

Abstract. Soil erosion is a two-phase process consisting of the detachment of individual particles and their transport by the flowing water. This study discusses the results of laboratory experiments in which for three soils, the runoff depth, sediment yield, splash erosion and sediment size were measured. Rainfall intensity, slope and antecedent moisture contents were varied in the experiment. The soil types ranged from clay to sandy clay loam (Alemaya Black soil, Regosols and Cambisols). Rainfall was applied for six sequential 15-min periods with rainfall intensities varying between 55 and 120 mm h−1. The three slopes tested were 9, 25, and 45 %. Results show that as slope increased from 9 to 25 %, splash erosion and sediment yield increased. An increase in slope from 25 to 45 % generally decreases in splash erosion. Sediment yield for one soil increased and one soil decreased with slope and for the third soil the trend was different between the two initial moisture contents. Sediment yield was correlated (r = 0.66) with runoff amounts but not with splash erosion. Interrill erosion models that were based on the flowing water and rainfall intensity fitted the data better than when based on rainfall intensity solely. Models that assume a positive linear relationship between erosion and slope may overestimate sediment yield.