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Universidad de Córdoba (2019)

Analysis and modelling of gully erosion contribution to sediment production in the Guadalquivir River basin

Hayas López, Antonio

Titre : Analysis and modelling of gully erosion contribution to sediment production in the Guadalquivir River basin

Análisis y modelización de la contribución de la erosión por cárcavas a la producción de sedimentos en la cuenca del Guadalquivir

Auteur : Hayas López, Antonio

Université de soutenance : Universidad de Córdoba

Grade : Doctorado Dinámica de Flujos Biogeoquímicos y sus Aplicaciones 2019

Gully erosion is widely recognised as an important soil degradation process in many regions, causing important on-site (e.g. soil losses, environmental degradation, crop losses...) and off-site effects (e.g. muddy floods, water pollution, reservoir siltation...). In contrast to other erosion processes, as for instance sheet and rill erosion, where models have been successfully developed and tested extensively over the world, no widely accepted model exists for gully erosion. The reasons for this are the varied and complex subprocesses involved in gully erosion, the factors that control it and, its dependence on the spatial and temporal scale of study. Notwithstanding the above, gully erosion has been proved to be the major erosion process contributing to the total sediment yield in various regions, especially in the Mediterranean Region. This is particularly the case of the Guadalquivir River Basin, where the lithology added to the topography and the climate condition make of it a gully prone area. At present, very little information is available on gully processes and dynamics in this area. In this thesis, a complex gully network with a contributing area of 20 km2 was selected as a representative case of the gully prone agricultural landscape of the Campiña of the Guadalquivir River Basin, which land use consists mainly of herbaceous crops and live groves on Vertisols developed over soft parent material (marls and calcareous sandstone). The dynamics of the gully network was study over a period of 57 years by a combination of photointerpretation techniques in a GIS, field surveys and probabilistic approaches. Gully network evolution was derived from a dataset of 10 aerial orthophotos from the period 1956 to 2013. Field data and a Monte Carlo approach were then applied to estimate gully erosion rates dynamics over the study period. Modelling of gully erosion was then assessed by means of the study of the topographic thresholds for gully head initiation and by means of the gully widening rates dynamics. The results showed that gully erosion rate in the study area was 39 ton/ha/year on average, with peaks up to 591 ton/ha/year. However, these gully erosion rates were highly variable over the study period, and therefore the estimation through average values should be taking with caution. The variability on the gully erosion rates obtained highlights the importance of appropriately selecting the time scale on which gully erosion processes are assessed. For the first time, an important temporal variability in the topographic thresholds (TT) values for a given study area was demonstrated. In addition, this TT variability could be correlated to rainfall regime through various rainfall indexes, as for instance the Rainy Day Normal (RDN). A significant correlation between the gully widening rates and the runoff contributing area were found. Variability in gully widening rates were related to a rainfall index expressing the number of days exceeding a threshold rainfall depth of 13 mm. Land use present in the study area (herbaceous crops and olive groves) showed no significant effects on the TT and the widening rates.


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