Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1321–1334, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1321–1334, 2012

Research article 08 May 2012

Research article | 08 May 2012

Soil erosion and sediment delivery in a mountain catchment under scenarios of land use change using a spatially distributed numerical model

L. C. Alatorre1, S. Beguería3, N. Lana-Renault2, A. Navas3, and J. M. García-Ruiz4 L. C. Alatorre et al.
  • 1División Multidisciplinaria de la UACJ en Cuauhtémoc, Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, 31579 Chihuahua, México
  • 2Área de Geografía, Departamento de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Universidad de La Rioja, 26004 Logroño, Spain
  • 3Estación Experimental de Aula Dei, Agencia Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (EEAD-CSIC), 50059 Zaragoza, Spain
  • 4Instituto Pirenaico de Ecología, Agencia Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (IPE-CSIC), 50059 Zaragoza, Spain

Abstract. Soil erosion and sediment yield are strongly affected by land use/land cover (LULC). Spatially distributed erosion models are of great interest to assess the expected effect of LULC changes on soil erosion and sediment yield. However, they can only be applied if spatially distributed data is available for their calibration. In this study the soil erosion and sediment delivery model WATEM/SEDEM was applied to a small (2.84 km2) experimental catchment in the Central Spanish Pyrenees. Model calibration was performed based on a dataset of soil redistribution rates derived from point 137Cs inventories, allowing capture differences per land use in the main model parameters. Model calibration showed a good convergence to a global optimum in the parameter space, which was not possible to attain if only external (not spatially distributed) sediment yield data were available. Validation of the model results against seven years of recorded sediment yield at the catchment outlet was satisfactory. Two LULC scenarios were then modeled to reproduce land use at the beginning of the twentieth century and a hypothetic future scenario, and to compare the simulation results to the current LULC situation. The results show a reduction of about one order of magnitude in gross erosion (3180 to 350 Mg yr−1) and sediment delivery (11.2 to 1.2 Mg yr−1 ha−1) during the last decades as a result of the abandonment of traditional land uses (mostly agriculture) and subsequent vegetation recolonization. The simulation also allowed assessing differences in the sediment sources and sinks within the catchment.