Assessing soil erosion risk using RUSLE through a GIS open source desktop and web application

  • L. Duarte
  • A. C. Teodoro
  • J. A. Gonçalves
  • D. Soares
  • M. Cunha


Soil erosion is a serious environmental problem. An estimation of the expected soil loss by water-caused erosion can be calculated considering the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE). Geographical Information Systems (GIS) provide different tools to create categorical maps of soil erosion risk which help to study the risk assessment of soil loss. The objective of this study was to develop a GIS open source application (in QGIS), using the RUSLE methodology for estimating erosion rate at the watershed scale (desktop application) and provide the same application via web access (web application). The applications developed allow one to generate all the maps necessary to evaluate the soil erosion risk. Several libraries and algorithms from SEXTANTE were used to develop these applications. These applications were tested in Montalegre municipality (Portugal). The maps involved in RUSLE method—soil erosivity factor, soil erodibility factor, topographic factor, cover management factor, and support practices—were created. The estimated mean value of the soil loss obtained was 220 ton km−2 year−1 ranged from 0.27 to 1283 ton km−2 year−1. The results indicated that most of the study area (80 %) is characterized by very low soil erosion level (<321 ton km−2 year−1) and in 4 % of the studied area the soil erosion was higher than 962 ton km−2 year−1. It was also concluded that areas with high slope values and bare soil are related with high level of erosion and the higher the P and C values, the higher the soil erosion percentage. The RUSLE web and the desktop application are freely available.


RUSLE Soil erosion Open source software QGIS Web 



The authors would like to thank DGT (Direção Geral do Território) for the data provided, Professor João Pedro Pedroso for the help provided in this work, and professional English reviewer Sofia de Melo Araújo.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • L. Duarte
    • 1
    • 2
  • A. C. Teodoro
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. A. Gonçalves
    • 1
    • 3
  • D. Soares
    • 5
  • M. Cunha
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of Geosciences, Environment and Land Planning, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  2. 2.Earth Sciences Institute (ICT), Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  3. 3.Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental ResearchUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  4. 4.Geo-Space Science Research Center, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal
  5. 5.Computer Services, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal

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