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Assessing the long-term impact of land-use and land-cover changes on soil erosion in Ethiopia’s Chemoga Basin using the RUSLE model

Abstract

Soil erosion is one of the primary causes of environmental degradation worldwide. The Chemoga Basin—the highlands region in northwestern Ethiopia—has experienced accelerated soil erosion due to changes in land-use and land-cover (LULC) in recent decades. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) model was used to quantify the impact of LULC changes on soil loss in the study area. Satellite images from 1987 and 2017 were used to characterize the spatial patterns of LULC changes. All RUSLE factors were mapped on a 30 m × 30 m grid to reflect the natural and environmental conditions of the study area. An expansion of agricultural lands occurred between 1987 and 2017, while the area of natural vegetation cover such as woodlands and grasslands declined. Forest cover has recovered in recent years as a result of afforestation and eucalyptus plantations. Reflecting LULC changes, the total soil loss in the study area was estimated at 2,087,894 t year–1 in 1987, which increased to 2,112,093 t year–1 in 2017. Agricultural lands accounted for 89.3% and 90.1% of the total soil loss in 1987 and 2017, respectively. The results showed that slope gradient and elevation are important factors in agricultural land conversion, and thereby influence soil erosion. An understanding of the impact of LULC changes on soil erosion potential is crucial for establishing government policy and action plans to conserve natural resources in erosion-prone areas of the Ethiopian highlands.

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Acknowledgements

This study was carried out with the support of ‘R&D Program for Forest Science Technology (Project No. 2020185B10-2122-AA02)’ provided by Korea Forest Service(Korea Forestry Promotion Institute).

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Correspondence to Sangjun Im.

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Getachew, W., Kim, D., Li, Q. et al. Assessing the long-term impact of land-use and land-cover changes on soil erosion in Ethiopia’s Chemoga Basin using the RUSLE model. Landscape Ecol Eng 18, 461–475 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11355-022-00518-6

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s11355-022-00518-6

Keywords

  • Land use and land cover dynamics
  • Land degradation
  • Soil loss
  • Soil erosion severity
  • Ethiopian highlands