Environmental Management

, Volume 41, Issue 5, pp 766–778 | Cite as

Spatial Analysis of Soil Erosion and Sediment Fluxes: A Paired Watershed Study of Two Rappahannock River Tributaries, Stafford County, Virginia

  • Matthew C. Ricker
  • Ben K. Odhiambo
  • Joseph M. Church


Soil erosion is a serious problem in areas with expanding construction, agricultural production, and improper storm water management. It is important to understand the major processes affecting sediment delivery to surficial water bodies in order to tailor effective mitigation and outreach activities. This study analyzes how naturally occurring and anthropogenic influences, such as urbanization and soil disturbance on steep slopes, are reflected in the amount of soil erosion and sediment delivery within sub-watershed-sized areas. In this study, two sub-watersheds of the Rappahannock River, Horsepen Run and Little Falls Run, were analyzed using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) and a sediment delivery ratio (SDR) to estimate annual sediment flux rates. The RUSLE/SDR analyses for Horsepen Run and Little Falls Run predicted 298 Mg/y and 234 Mg/y, respectively, but nearly identical per-unit-area sediment flux rates of 0.15 Mg/ha/y and 0.18 Mg/ha/y. Suspended sediment sampling indicated greater amounts of sediment in Little Falls Run, which is most likely due to anthropogenic influences. Field analyses also suggest that all-terrain vehicle crossings represent the majority of sediment flux derived from forested areas of Horsepen Run. The combined RUSLE/SDR and field sampling data indicate that small-scale anthropogenic disturbances (ATV trails and construction sites) play a major role in overall sediment flux rates for both basins and that these sites must be properly accounted for when evaluating sediment flux rates at a sub-watershed scale.


Spatial analysis RUSLE Urbanization Chesapeake Bay 



The authors would like to thank the University of Mary Washington for their financial support during the course of this project. The authors would also like to thank Dr. Grant Woodwell, Craig Hicks, Leigh Goldstein, and Matt Wilkinson for their support of our research efforts and Burt Harrison, Hunter Greenlaw, and Matt Small for access to sample sites within their property.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Matthew C. Ricker
    • 1
  • Ben K. Odhiambo
    • 1
  • Joseph M. Church
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Earth and Environmental ScienceUniversity of Mary WashingtonFredericksburgUSA

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