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Soil conservation practices contribution in trapping sediment and soil organic carbon, Minizr watershed, northwest highlands of Ethiopia

  • Sediments, Sec 2 • Physical and Biogeochemical Processes • Research Article
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Globally, land degradation and climate change are priority problems. Therefore, this study was conducted in Minizr catchment in the northwest highlands of Ethiopia to investigate the sediment and sediment organic carbon (SOC) trapping role of soil and water conservation practices (SWCPs) constructed inside fields, check dams (CDs) constructed inside gullies and micro-trenches constructed on degraded grazing lands, which would help to reduce land degradation and climate change. Our three research questions were: How much sediment was trapped by SWCPs? How much SOC was trapped by SWCPs? What was the role of SWCPs in mitigating climate change?

Materials and methods

Google Earth Imagery was used to map the SWCPs constructed inside fields; a Digital Elevation Model (ASTER DEM 20 m) was used to delineate the boundary of the study watershed and to evaluate elevation and slope characteristics, and GPS was used to collect watershed outlet coordinate points, CD locations and to accurately digitize SWCPs. Three different SWCPs, five different CDs and 30 micro-trenches were evaluated for their sediment and SOC trapping efficiency. The experiment was designed in three treatments with three replications, except for the CD studies. The volume of sediment trapped was quantified using field measurements of the deposited sediment and SOC was determined in a soil laboratory.

Results and discussion

The investigated SWCPs, CDs and micro-trenches trapped ~584,745 kg SOC together with 32,105 t of sediment. The percentage SOC was higher in the CD sediments (1.98%) than SWCPs (1.38%) and micro-trenches (1.49%). A large amount of SOC was deposited in vegetative-supported CDs than CDs constructed from structures alone, i.e. CDs supported with vegetative practices trapped more SOC.


In general, SWCPs, CDs and micro-trenches were found to reduce soil erosion or land degradation by enhancing sediment deposition. They also trapped large amounts of SOC together with the sediment, which can reduce the greenhouse gases emission to the atmosphere. Therefore, governmental and non-governmental organizations and professionals should also consider SWCPs as climate change mitigation measures, like that of afforestation/plantation.

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The authors would like to thank Bahir Dar soil laboratory center and Amhara Design and Supervision Works Enterprise Laboratory for SOC analysis. We also would like to thank the farmers and development agents for their assistance during the field work. We would also extend our thanks to Bahir Dar University College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Geospatial Data and Technology Center (GDTC). The anonymous reviewers and the Editor-in-Chief were greatly appreciated for their valuable comments in improving the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Mulatie Mekonnen.

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Mekonnen, M., Getahun, M. Soil conservation practices contribution in trapping sediment and soil organic carbon, Minizr watershed, northwest highlands of Ethiopia. J Soils Sediments 20, 2484–2494 (2020).

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