Did tillage erosion play a role in millennial scale landscape development?


J.E.M. Baartman, Land Degradation & Development group, Wageningen University, P.O. Box 47, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands. E-mail: Jantiene.baartman@wur.nl


Landscape evolution models (LEMs) quantitatively simulate processes of sedimentation and erosion on millennial timescales. An important aspect of human impact on erosion is sediment redistribution due to agriculture, referred to herein as tillage erosion. In this study we aim to analyse the potential contribution of tillage erosion to landscape development using LEM LAPSUS. The model is calibrated separately for a water erosion process (i) without tillage and (ii) with tillage. The model is applied to the ~250 km2 Torrealvilla case study catchment, SE Spain. We were able to simulate alternating sequences of incision and aggradation, that are important on longer (millennial) timescales. Generally, model results show that tillage erosion adds to deposition in the lower floodplain area, but neither water erosion alone nor water with tillage erosion together could exactly reproduce the observed amounts of erosion and sedimentation for the case study area. In addition, scale effects are apparent. On hillslopes, tillage may contribute importantly to erosion and may fill local depressions. If assessed on the catchment scale, sediments from tillage erosion eventually reach the lower floodplain area where they contribute to deposition. However, water erosion was observed in the model simulations to be the most important process on the catchment scale. This is the first time that tillage erosion has been explicitly included in a landscape evolution model at a millennial timescale and large catchment scale. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.