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Keywords:

  • rain splash;
  • sheet wash;
  • soil erosion;
  • rainfall erosivity;
  • threshold energy;
  • modelling

Abstract

The complex interactions between rainfall-driven erosion processes and rainfall characteristics, slope gradient, soil treatment and soil surface processes are not very well understood. A combination of experiments under natural rainfall and a consistent physical theory for their interpretation is needed to shed more light on the underlying processes. The present study demonstrates such a methodology. An experimental device employed earlier in laboratory studies was used to measure downslope rain splash and ‘splash-creep’, lateral splash, upslope splash and rainfall-driven runoff transport (wash) from a highly aggregated clay-rich oxisol exposed to natural rainfall in West Java, Indonesia. Two series of measurements were made: the first with the soil surface at angles of 0°, 5°, 15° and 40°; and the second all at an angle of 5° but with different tillage and mulching treatments. A number of rainfall erosivity indices were calculated from rainfall intensity measurements and compared with measured transport components. Overall storm kinetic energy correlated reasonably well with sediment transport, but much better agreement was obtained when a threshold rainfall intensity (20 mm h−1) was introduced. Rain splash transport measurements were interpreted using a recently developed theory relating detachment to sediment transport. Furthermore, a conceptually sound yet simple wash transport model is advanced that satisfactorily predicted observed washed sediment concentrations. The lack of replication precluded rigorous assessment of the effect of slope and soil treatment on erosion processes, but some general conclusions could still be drawn. The results stress the importance of experiments under conditions of natural rainfall. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.