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Impact of C factor of USLE technique on the accuracy of soil erosion modeling in elevated mountainous area (case study: the Tibetan plateau)

Abstract

The soil loss caused by rainfall-runoff process is a global issue which can decrease the lands fertility and increase the flood hazards. There are many different empirical relationships and numerical methods available for soil loss estimation. One of the most commonly used methods is the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), which is widely used to estimate the amount of annual rill erosion. The main aim of this paper was to evaluate the accuracy and applicability of the USLE method in the estimation of soil loss in elevated and rocky mountainous areas of Tibetan plateau. To do this, some of the observed and modeled soil loss data that were available in some Chinese researches, were selected. Land slope, soil type, land cover, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), aspect, monthly and annual rainfall and runoff maps from GIS were derived and investigated to calculate the USLE parameters. The results showed that the accuracy of the USLE model was decreased significantly in regions with high soil loss risk due to ignoring the rock properties and snow cover in K parameter. Also, the results showed that parameters which can decrease the soil loss significantly such as rock fragments content and low height vegetation have to be considered in NDVI calculation. Hence, it is recommended to improve the accuracy of the model by adjusting C factor for elevated mountainous areas based on the rock properties and snow cover which can be derived from the remote sensing maps.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the “Chinese National Natural Science Foundation” (No. 41871072), “National Major Science and Technology Program for Water Pollution Control and Treatment” (2017ZX07101001) and “Young Scientists Exchange Program (TYSP)” (Grant nos. Iran-18-008 and Iran-18-009). The authors wish to give thanks to the “Geospatial Data Clod Platform” for sharing data for use in this research and the “Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment” of China for their support, and also they are grateful to Mr. Jian Hong-Mau for providing some photographs. The Iranian authors would like to express great appreciation to the “Vice presidency for Science and Technology” of Iran and the “Ministry of Science and Technology” of China for their cooperation as a part of Memorandum of Understanding on Iran-China on Young Scientists Exchange Program which signed on April 2017.

Artemis and Majid are grateful to the Buein Zahra Technical University (Iran) and Imam Khomeini International University of Iran for extending all possible assistance for the completion of the studies.

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Correspondence to Artemis Motamedi.

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Fan, J., Motamedi, A. & Galoie, M. Impact of C factor of USLE technique on the accuracy of soil erosion modeling in elevated mountainous area (case study: the Tibetan plateau). Environ Dev Sustain 23, 12615–12630 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-01133-x

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-01133-x

Keywords

  • C factor
  • Mountainous area
  • NDVI
  • Soil erosion
  • Tibetan plateau
  • USLE