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Evaluation of gully development over several years using GIS and fractal analysis: a case study of the Palmital watershed, Minas Gerais (Brazil)

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Abstract

Soil erosion affects agricultural production by reducing the area of rural properties and altering the dynamics of watersheds. Gullies are a complex and irregular type of erosion form that can reach large dimensions, and studying gullies to stabilize erosion processes is a challenge. This study aims to understand their environmental relationships as a basis for future research and to recover land degraded by soil erosion. We combined mapping techniques using geographic information system (GIS) with temporal evolution of land use and fractal dimensions of gullies using FracLac to determine the stability of gullies in a watershed in south Minas Gerais (Brazil). We used R software to apply linear regressions and tested the statistics to verify the compatibility of the model. Environmental characteristics of the watershed contribute to the formation of gullies, but human activities influence the deflagration of these features. The temporal evolution of the land use demonstrated that nearly 50% of the watershed was used as pastures throughout the years, which contributed to soil degradation. The evolution of the fractal dimension showed fluctuations over the years, indicating that the gullies are not stable. The regressions suggest that the vegetation, geology, land use, channel order, and curvature may influence the fractal dimensions of gullies. We concluded that human activity influences the evolution of gullies; the use of techniques such as vegetation measures can contribute to the stabilization of gullies. We also concluded that fractal analysis is an interesting tool for performing environmental evaluations of irregular and complex features, such as gullies.

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Acknowledgments

We acknowledge the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation for scientific support.

Funding

The study was financially supported by the National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq) (process numbers: 141835/2015-0 and 420740/2018-0).

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Real, L.S.C., Crestana, S., Ferreira, R.R.M. et al. Evaluation of gully development over several years using GIS and fractal analysis: a case study of the Palmital watershed, Minas Gerais (Brazil). Environ Monit Assess 192, 434 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10661-020-08362-7

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