Evaluating runoff and sediment responses to soil and water conservation practices by employing alternative modeling approaches.
Additional Document Info
Evaluating runoff and sediment responses to human activities and climate variability is crucial for prioritizing erosion hotspots and implementing appropriate land management interventions. This study evaluated the separate and combined impacts of soil and water conservation (SWC) practices, land use/land cover, and climate variability, on runoff and sediment yield (SY) using two approaches in drought-prone watersheds of northwestern Ethiopia. In the first (paired watershed) approach, runoff and SY outputs of Kecha (treated) and Laguna (untreated) watersheds were compared. In the second approach, we compared data before and after the implementation of SWC practices in the Kecha watershed. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was adopted for both untreated and treated watersheds and used to evaluate runoff and SY responses in the two approaches. Paired watershed approach results revealed that the SWC practices reduced the surface runoff in Kecha by about 28-36% and SY by about 51-68% as compared to those in Laguna. Similarly, compared with the baseline data at Kecha, the SWC practices reduced the surface runoff and SY by about 40% and 43%, respectively, corresponding to about 65-78% of the total changes brought by changes in land use/land cover and climate variability. Hence, combining the two approaches helped reasonably estimate the reduction of surface runoff and SY due to SWC practices by about 28-40% and about 43-68%, respectively, implying that SWC practices had a considerably greater effect on SY than surface runoff. The study further revealed that the untreated Laguna watershed, where >86% of the total area is categorized as the very high soil erosion severity class, should be an immediate conservation priority. The findings of this study will be vital to devise future alternative land management scenarios in these watersheds and similar agro-ecological areas elsewhere.