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Identification of critical soil erosion prone
areas and annual average soil loss in an upland
agricultural watershed of Western Ghats, using
analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and...
Article in Arabian Journal of Geosciences · June 2014
DOI: 10.1007/s12517-014-1460-5

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 V. Ninu Krishnan & H. Pradeep. Vijith Arabian Journal of Geosciences ISSN 1866-7511 Arab J Geosci DOI 10.Identification of critical soil erosion prone areas and annual average soil loss in an upland agricultural watershed of Western Ghats.1007/s12517-014-1460-5 1 23 . using analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and RUSLE techniques G. M. S.

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Pandey et al. Pradeep : M. India e-mail: vijithh@gmail. viz. slope. Arekhi et al. 2012. Kerala 695 038. The crosscomparison of potential soil erosion severity map with annual average soil loss in the area validates the finding of the study by a high spatial correlation. northeastern states. 2013). Geographic information system Introduction The influence of soil erosion on land degradation. b. Institute of Land and Disaster Management.39 % of the study area. together constitute 45 % (130 Mha) of the total geographic area.T. and the Western Ghats. the critical erosion zone occupies 4. deserts. denudational slope. 2011a. drainage frequency. Vijith (*) Hazard Risk and Vulnerability Analysis (HVRA) Cell. 2007). Soil erosion is the most serious environmental problem that threatens the world today by reducing the acreage of agriculture and agriculture production through losing the topsoil and nutrients from the soil (Hoyos 2005. Anon 2008. P.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci DOI 10. More erosion proneness and annual loss were observed in areas where the side slope G. Keywords AHP . The spatial pattern of average annual soil erosion rates was obtained by RUSLE model that consider five factors. In India. Pradeep & M. India. shifting cultivation. 2012). Krishnan : H. Hlaing et al. Among this..1007/s12517-014-1460-5 ORIGINAL PAPER Identification of critical soil erosion prone areas and annual average soil loss in an upland agricultural watershed of Western Ghats. Among this 93. Nil and low zones together constitute 44. rainfall erosivity (R). River catchments are dynamic and vulnerable systems that can change markedly when exposed to different natural denudational process and anthropogenic impacts.P Nagar. V. and valley fills comes with high slope and relative relief. N. cover management (C) and conservation practice (P) factors. sandy areas. and relative relief after determining its relative contribution in conditioning the terrain susceptible to soil erosion by AHP technique. in a raster-based Geographic Information Systems environment. cultivated wastelands. The intense terrain modification in this area with improper soil conservation measures makes the watershed more vulnerable to soil erosion. lineament frequency. water quality. RUSLE . Geomorphology . Western Ghats . Singh et al. Kerala State Disaster Management Authority. and agricultural production and environments has long been identified as adverse problems for human sustainability (Sharda et al. 2009. S. V. Ninu Krishnan & H. drainage density. 1992. The soil erosion probability map prepared by the AHP method was reclassified into soil erosion severity map showing regions of different erosion probability. soil erodability (K). 2008. Thiruvanathapuram. Vijith Received: 7 August 2013 / Accepted: 14 May 2014 # Saudi Society for Geosciences 2014 Abstract The present work integrates analytical hierarchy process (AHP) with Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) model to determine the critical soil erosion prone areas along with the spatial pattern of annual average soil erosion rates of an upland agricultural sub-watershed in the Western Ghats of Kerala. The assessed annual average soil loss from the watershed shows an increased value of 4. The critical soil erosion prone areas were identified by integrating geo-environmental variables such as land use/land cover.227 t−1 h−1 year−1 as the maximum loss. . Prasannakumar et al. slope length and steepness (LS). using analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and RUSLE techniques G.68 Mha of land is influenced by hydrologically controlled soil erosion (Narayan and Babu 1983. S.com plateau. which is affected by serious soil erosion through ravines and gullies. geomorphology.23 % of the total area followed by high erosion severity zone occupies 18.15 % of the total area. and water logging. Soil erosion and associated land degradation are extreme in headwater regions of the river catchments. the soil erosion is more severe in the Himalayan ranges.

Geomorphologically. torrential rainfall. the analytical hierarchy process (AHP) technique was used to analyze the contribution of various thematic maps. Land cover types of the area vary from grassland in the upper portion of the hills to rubber plantations. Mixed forest. The results of the study will serve as the baseline data for developing site/terrain specific agricultural practices. Saaty and Vargas 2001).200 mm exhibits a wet climatic condition with a mean minimum and maximum temperature of 20 and 34 °C. (2013). the sub-watershed is characterized by steep structural hills with side slope plateau. contributing soil erosion and sedimentation. b. The area experiences good to high rainfall during the southwest monsoon (June–August) and northeast monsoon (October–December) seasons. due to its highly undulating topography. 1) . during the southwest and northeast monsoon period. Analytical hierarchy process is a decision support system designed to seek optimum decision making for a complex circumstances through hierarchical structure. which makes the area more susceptible to soil erosion. Rahman et al. and other crops. excessive surface runoff. Geologically. respectively. which is comprised of targets to be attained. Vijith et al. factors are compared with each other to obtain the relative preference of each factor and are expressed in terms of numeric values. Vijith et al. 2011a. which is well drained with very slow permeability. and quartzite. escarpments. Zhang et al. Reports on the low agricultural productivity. but studies related to soil erosion are very rare. and increased runoff due to unscientific and unethical terrain modification for various developmental and agricultural purposes. high terrain gradient. Naqvi et al. The highlands of the Western Ghat’s of Kerala are highly vulnerable to soil erosion and other mass wasting processes. which exhibit moderate to highly undulating and rugged topography with a mean elevation of 1. which extends between the north latitude 9°35′–9°50′ and east longitude 76°40′–77°00′ (Fig. Prasannakumar et al. Methodology Analytical hierarchy process In order to identify and map critical areas of soil erosion. shifting pattern of land use. charnockite. abandoned agricultural practices. 2012). In the present study. (2008). The soil texture is gravelly clay followed by gravelly clay loam. landslides. and valley fills with thick vegetation cover. Dabral et al. Large numbers of studies are reported on the landslides susceptibility of the region by a number of researchers and scientists using different methodologies and approaches (Vijith and Madhu 2007. Ni and Li (2003). and heavy sediment delivery associated with intense rainfall and the drying up of mountain streams necessitated the need for the assessment of spatial vulnerability of soil erosion and quantification of soil loss from the area. which involves a matrix based on pair-wise comparison of the contribution of different factors. an attempt has been made to assess the spatial vulnerability of soil erosion in an upland agricultural catchment of river Meenachil using analytical hierarchy process (AHP) and also to quantify the annual average soil loss through the application of remote sensing and geographical information system based implementation of RUSLE model.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci The headwater regions of rivers originating from the Western Ghats are experiencing severe terrain modification and associated climatic changes and ecological degradation. and alternatives to be selected (Saaty 1980. This is a semiqualitative method. and cleared areas were also identified in the area. (2009).41 %) of the area with lateritic over burden. (2013). The study area represents part of the Western Ghats in Kerala. Alexakis et al. biotite gneiss. 1994. and related environmental degradations. 2008. 2009). Kalathukadavu and Poonjar together constitute an area of 218. pink/gray granite. and Rozos et al.000 to 3. Kim et al. The various techniques and methods used for the soil erosion spatial vulnerability assessment and quantification of soil loss can be found in Lal (1994). Arar and Chenchouni (2013). Some of the studies reported on the other parts of the state particularly related to theme soil erosion and are done for very small catchment/sub-watershed areas (Misra et al. namely. The flanks of the hills and both the structural hills and denudational hills are undergoing rapid terrain modifications and shifting cultivation. (2013). which will reduce the severity of land degradation in the area. 2012. and the major rock types found in the study area are dolerite dykes. 1). in the present study. The techniques employed in the assessment and quantification of soil loss are detailed in “Methodology. Lee (2004). (2012).200 m above msl with a dominant northwesterly slope. which are prepared from diverse data sources. (2009). The measured annual average rainfall varies from 3. charnockite occupies the majority (94. The elements of the matrix is can be expressed as (Eq. The areas selected for the present study are classified as highly prone to landslides (debris flow). the area falls in the Precambrian terrain. tea. various criteria for decision making. The assessment spatial pattern of soil erosion potential of the area and the average annual loss can be achieved through the application of geospatial technologies by utilizing different spatial models and methods.44 km2. Khosrokhani and Pradhan (2013). residual mounds. Of this. 1984. In AHP method.” Study area The study area is delimited with the upland sub-watershed of river Meenachil. denudational hills.

the consistency ratio. 3 CI ¼ λmax −n n−1 ð3Þ where λmax is the largest eigenvalue of ‘A’. the next step is to calculate the weight of the matrix. the values in each cell is divided by the summed values of the same factor column. 1990. The commission and omission of a variable in the analysis will depend on the value of CR. If A is perfectly consistent. 2. and then. In the present study. summing up the values in each column of the pair-wise comparison matrix. and RI is the consistency index for a random square matrix of the same size. The matrix was prepared randomly so some degrees of inconsistency may occur (Saaty 1980. Consistency ratio (CR) should be lower than or equal to 0. then λmax will be at a minimum and equal to n. When the CR is >0. Hence. The principal eigenvector of the matrix provide the weight values of each factor and is computed by. which is an index of inconsistency. 1994). There several methods for finding out the weights. producing a CI to zero. As . The mean values of each row were the primary eigenvector of the pair-wise comparison CI RI ð2Þ where CI is the consistency index.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Fig. eigenvector method was used for deriving attribute weights.1. the variable will be incorporated in the analysis.1. is given by Eq. and ‘n’ is the order of the square matrix. which are one of the most popular methods of calculating preferences from inconsistent matrices of pair-wise comparison (Saaty 1990). The CI can be calculated using the Eq. the variable will be omitted and is <0.1. CR ¼ Weight for attribute i Weight for attribute j Once the pair-wise comparison is completed. 1 Study area location map a11 a12 … … ::a1n a a22 a2n A ¼ 21 ……………aij ……:: an1 an2 ann ð1Þ where aij ¼ wi=wj ¼ matrix.

land use/land cover. L is the slope length factor. Pourghasemi et al. usually on yearly basis (t h−1 year−1). and P values are dimensionless. C. and lineament frequency were generated and integrated in the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) platform for assessing the soil erosion severity of the area. The weight determination process indicates strong contribution of areas having bushes/shrubs followed by cleared area and crop lands. site suitability analysis. Soil erosion models provide the ways of quantifying soil erosion rates from various landscapes. The LS. Yang et al. RUSLE estimates annual average soil loss as the product of a number of factors that have been measured for all climates. Various land use/land cover classes delineated include bushes/shrubs. it is also important to identify and delineate the soil erosion prone zones. drainage frequency. 2012. 2007. RUSLE-based annual soil loss estimation Soil erosion is one of the biggest geo-environmental problems that cause a series of ecological issues. 2011). K is the soil erodibility factor [t ha h/(ha MJ mm)]. Pandey et al. 2010. lineament frequency. 1997). seven geo-environmental variables such as slope. The present study uses the RUSLE model to predict annual soil loss in the upland agricultural watershed in the Western Ghats because this model gives the best results in predicting the erosion rates of ungauged catchments. land use/land cover was demarcated from satellite image using the standard methods of visual interpretation of remote sensing data and associated field verification. 2014. Pazand et al. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) is an empirical erosion model designed to predict long-time average annual soil loss by runoff from a place of interest for any number of scenarios involving cropping systems. and reliability of the resulting data. Althuwaynee et al. In the present analysis. 2011. In the present study. Intarawichian and Dasananda 2010. geomorphology. The AHP-based techniques were used in the number of studies in earth system sciences particularly in landslide susceptibility assessment. equivalent to erosion in tons per hectare per year (Renard et al. and consistency ratio of the data layers and feature classes are given in Table 1 and their characteristics are discussed below. AHP-based methodology was adopted to identify and demark the zones more susceptible to soil erosion. using the knowledge of catchment characteristics and local hydro-climatic conditions. ratings. mineral mapping. the computed soil loss per unit area. Before integrating various thematic maps in GIS for the production of soil erosion probability zones. and kinds of land. and the type of existing drainage pattern influence the genesis and processes of different geomorphic units. 2014. producing a large value of CI. 2013. land use/land cover. 2013). Geomorphological mapping involves the identification and characterization of the fundamental units of the landscape. 4) A ¼ R  K  LS  C  P ð4Þ where A is the computed spatial average soil loss over a period selected for R. Youssef et al. individual themes and representative features contribution were assessed by building a hierarchy of decision elements (factors) and then making comparisons between possible pairs in a matrix to give a weight for each element and also a consistency ratio. The underlying lithology. and among these. 2012. Kaliraj et al. crop land. which return a single number. and rubber (plantations). grass land. In the present study. slope. rubber plantation occupies most of the area. and water body. The theme land use/land cover represents the present land use practices in the area including both natural and man-made features. The seven individual factors. relative relief. and the pair-wise comparison matrix. and relative relief (Fig. soil types. Bonilla et al. R is the rainfall–runoff erosivity factor [MJ mm/(ha h year−1)]. 2010. Fattahi et al. It is a multiple criteria decision-making technique that allows subjective as well as objective factors to be taken into account in the decision-making process (Malczewski 1999. cleared area. topography. drainage density. 2013. 2009. These factors are combined in a number of formulas. and groundwater studies (Wu and Wang 2007. and P is the conservation supportpractices factor.. escarpment. S is the slope steepness factor. λmax increases. 2). based on erosion plots. drainage frequency. Chandio et al. slope. In order to evaluate the representative influence of each variable and feature classes. which threaten the agricultural and hydrologic systems in the world.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci inconsistency increases. The methods of quantifying soil loss from agricultural lands and hill slopes. drainage density. possess many limitations in terms of cost. Significant . were considered in the present analysis. Ahmed 2009. representativeness. viz. Generation of critical soil erosion prone areas and assessment of annual average soil loss Soil erosion probability zones To frame proper soil conservation methods and models. C is the cover and management factor. Meusburger et al. Park et al. It can be expressed as (Eq. Yasser et al. 2014). Navarro et al. Kouli et al. tea. land form. 2014. built-up land. different rating criteria were applied after assessing the influence of each variables in conditioning the terrain susceptible to soil erosion and were used in the further analysis. and erosion control practices (Millward and Mersey 1999. Vijith et al. based on its severity and criticality. management techniques. 2014.

the side slope plateau. (c) drainage density. including plateau. 2 Geo-environmental variables used for the preparation of soil erosion probability map: (a) land use/land cover. (d) drainage frequency. residual mounds. valley fills. (b) geomorphology. escarpments. (f) elevation. valley fill. Drainage density is described as the ratio of the sum of the drainage lengths in the cell and the area of the corresponding cell. and a higher drainage density represents a relatively higher number of streams per unit area and thus a rapid storm response. (g) slope. Among the features. pediment. In mountainous regions. denudation slope. Drainage density is used to measure stream spacing.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Fig. which have an important role to play in the landslides and other erosional activities. drainage density provides an indirect measure of groundwater conditions. and (h) relative relief geomorphic units are identified based on their image characteristics. and water body. structural hill. (e) Lineament frequency. The values obtained . A drainage density map is prepared after computing density for each cell using GIS for 1 km2. and denudational slope show maximum ratings in the AHP analysis. side slope plateau.

Drainage frequency. Fractures that cross-cut the crustal feature and rocks are generally considered as lineaments and are inferred from the ./km2)./km2). is an indirect measure of erosion potential of the area and the more number represent rapid erosion zones of loose and unconsolidated materials in the high mountainous regions. The spatial representation of high and moderate drainage density zones has more ratings in the AHP analysis. the unit area was set to be 1 km2. which denotes the role of individual feature class in making the terrain vulnerable to soil erosion. moderate (2–4 nos. and low drainage densities. and high (>4 nos. In the analysis. which represents the number of drainages present in the unit area.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Fig. which directly points towards greater erosion potentiality of the representative zones. which was then reclassified into low (2 nos.343 m/km2./km2). which is finally classified into three classes of high. 2 (continued) range from 211 to 4. The resultant drainage frequency map showed a frequency value ranging from 0 to 5. was maximum in the class representing a high drainage frequency zones. and frequencies of the drainages were rated. moderate. The rating value.

000 m/km (3.5000 0–5° 5–10° 10–25° 25–35° >35° Consistency ratio: 0.0476 0.1200 0.0015 Geomorphology Drainage density 2 1.3750 0.2353 0.1905 0.0357 0.0588 0.0077 Slope 1/9 3/9 5/9 7/9 1 0.4286 .2857 0.2000 0.0014 8 2 1 1 8/9 2/9 1/9 1/9 2 2/4 1/4 1/4 8 2 1 1 8/7 2/7 1/7 1/7 1 2/8 1/8 1/8 4 1 1/2 1/2 8 2 1 1 8 2 1 1 0.2059 Valley fill rm Pediments River Consistency ratio: 0.500) 1 5 9 1/5 1 9/5 1/9 5/9 1 0.0357 0.000) >2.2800 0.3571 0.3214 0.0357 0.2647 0.0294 0.1176 0.0357 Plateau Sideslope plateau Structural hill Escarpments Denudational slope 1 9 4 1 7 1/9 1 4/9 1/9 7/9 1/4 9/4 1 1/4 7/4 1 9 4 1 7 1/7 9/7 4/7 1/7 1 1/8 9/8 4/8 1/8 7/8 1/2 9/2 2 1/2 7/2 1 9 4 1 7 1 9 4 1 7 0. ratings.000–2.3333 0.000 m/km2 (>3. and consistency ratio of the feature classed and data layers Factors Land use/land cover 1 1 9 2 8 3 2 1 1 1 2 1/9 1 2/9 8/9 3/9 2/9 1/9 1/9 1/9 3 1/2 9/2 1 4 3/2 1 1/2 1/2 1/2 4 1/8 9/8 2/8 1 3/8 2/8 1/8 1/8 1/8 5 1/3 3 2/3 8/3 1 2/3 1/3 1/3 1/3 6 1/2 9/2 1 4 3/2 1 1/2 1/2 1/2 7 1 9 2 8 3 2 1 1 1 8 1 9 2 8 3 2 1 1 1 9 1 9 2 8 3 2 1 1 1 Ratings 0.5625 Low Medium High 1 5/2 7/2 2/5 1 7/5 2/7 5/7 1 0.0667 0.1071 0.0400 0.00014 1 3 5 7 9 1/3 1 5/3 7/3 3 1/5 3/5 1 7/5 9/5 1/7 3/7 5/7 1 9/7 200 m/km2 1 4 7 9 1/4 1 7/4 9/4 1/7 4/7 1 9/7 1/9 4/9 7/9 1 Bushes and shrubs Cleared area Grass land Crop land Rubber Tea Built-up-land Escarpment Waterbody Consistency ratio: 0.0294 0.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Table 1 Pair-wise comparison matrix.0625 0.1429 0.3333 0.0294 0.0294 1.000 Consistency ratio: 0.0021 Drainage frequency Lineament frequency Consistency ratio: 0.000 m/km2 (1.3600 Relative relief 201–400 m/km2 401–600 m/km2 >600 m/km2 0.0005 1 6 9 1/6 1 9/6 1/9 6/9 1 0.6000 2 2–4 >4 Consistency ratio: 0.0714 0.0714 0.

1538 0..609.1282 0.50 137. Stability and degradation proneness of a terrain can be directly abstracted by assessing the general slope of the area. The slope of the terrain varies from 0 to 65°.80 437. In the present study.19 606. These inferred lineaments were used for the preparation of the lineament frequency map.20 460.50 684.70 564. and it was found that the high frequency class showed the maximum rating value of 0. which come under the steep slope class.e.60 394. lineaments extracted from visual interpretation of georeferenced IRS P6 LISS 3.20 696.20 417.1.4 3. Relative relief of an area represents the change in elevation in a unit area. soil formation. Using the map algebra given (Eq. 10–25° (high). <200 m/km2.2051 Geomorphology Drainage density Drainage frequency Lineament frequency Slope Relative relief Consistency ratio: 0. the higher slope will be more susceptible to erosion and other degradation processes.23 928. The relative relief map was generated from the elevation map using the neighborhood range function showing a value ranging between 20 and 826 m/km2 and reclassified into four classes. As suggested by Saaty (1977). which enables the analyst to demarcate highly fractured areas.20 6.5 m satellite imagery.90 156.50 404 129 0.00 0 13. SEPM¼rt Land use=land cover  0:2051þrt geomorphology  0:1282þrt drainage density  0:0769 þrt drainage frequency  0:1538þrt lineament frequency  0:0256þrt slope  0:2308þrt relative relief  0:1795ðrt ¼ ratings−relative weightsÞ ð5Þ Table 2 Monthly rainfall data with annual average R factor (MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1) Year January February March April May June July August September October November December Annual Annual rainfall average R 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 443.0476 to 0.30 859.30 395.60 467.3 3.90 326. 23. Slope identifies the steepest downhill angle for a location on a surface with respect to a horizontal.36 followed by the very high slope class.50 323.3 4. Slopes affect the velocity of both surface and subsurface flow and hence soil water content.00 561.10 820. The classified lineament frequency was analyzed to derive the ratings of each class.60 149.40 215.2308 0.4286.85 .0256 0.20 411. erosion potential.40 402.825.40 832.00 1.20 19.0014 5/8 3/8 6/8 1/8 9/8 7/8 1 3/5 6/5 1/5 9/5 7/5 5/3 1 2 1/3 3 7/3 5/6 3/6 1 1.60 252.985. and >35° (steep) for the present analysis. Thus.303. Digital elevation model (DEM) derived using the digitized contour information from the topographical map was used for the preparation of a slope map. The higher the difference. in which none of the factors considered in the present analysis were close to the above value.20 194. 201–400 m/km2.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Table 1 (continued) Factors Consistency ratio: 0.20 85.10 500.5 661. except for height.00 632.90 494.60 377.50 667. which are further classified into five classes like 0–5° (gentle). 25–35° (very high).80 357.70 325.80 309.80 618. Before integrating in raster calculator.50 1.24 400.50 193.6 9/6 7/6 5 3 6 1 9 7 5/9 3/9 6/9 1/9 1 7/9 5/7 3/7 6/7 1/7 9/7 1 0.630. the more are the chances of losing the stability angle. 5–10° (moderate). These lineaments certain time makes the terrain more susceptible to different geological and denudational processes.10 4. and >600 m/km2. Spatial integration of thematic data sets and production of soil erosion probability zones were started by assigning the calculated ratings to each feature class and features.8 3.30 0 0 2.90 276. show a high rating of 0.1795 satellite images.80 311. the CR cutoff was fixed at 0.00 0.50 62.0769 0. i.0039 Data layers Land use/land cover 1 8/5 8/3 8/6 8 8/9 8/7 0.20 137. the final soil erosion probability map (SEPM) was produced using a weighted linear sum procedure in GIS.072. 5). and a large number of important geomorphic processes. Areas. 401– 600 m/ km2. the CR of each factor was closely studied to determine its candidature in the production of final soil erosion probability map.80 377.00 187. in two slopes having identical geo-mechanical and geometrical parameters.00 20.10 369.50.40 32.80 760.70 455. with relative rating values varying from 0.10 491.10 552.

85–928. LS was derived from the DEM using the equation (Eq. with mean and standard deviation of 19. were derived from various data sources for attributing into the RUSLE equation.28 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1 and was used for further calculation. as they are considered to be unprotected barren land. 3a).19 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1) of R factor was observed in the year 2007 and the lowest value (400. using the simplified formula developed by Wischmeier and Smith (1978) and modified by Arnoldus (1980): R¼ X12 i¼1 Piz 1:735  10½1:5log10 ð P Þ−0:08188Š ð6Þ where R is the rainfall erosivity factor (MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1). The spatial distribution map shows the concentration of high LS values in elevated areas. The estimated K values for the textural groups vary from 0.85 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1) was observed in the year 2009. etc. Soil texture map prepared by the soil survey organization. respectively. Slope length and steepness factor (LS) The slope length and steepness factor. account the topographic controls over soil erosion. due to similar terrain characteristics and non-availability of adjoining rain gauges.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Annual average soil loss The five parameters. was used for the preparation of K factor map after performing the ground truth verification. structure. In the present study. organic matter content. and gravelly sandy clay loam. The C factor is the condition of land on the basis of vegetation strength. which affect the yield and transportation of the sediments. and 0. 0. The LS factor derived is presented (Fig. The average R factor was observed to be 618.14 (gravelly sandy clay). The details of the parameters derived are considered below.27 (sandy clay loam). Soil erodability factor (K) The soil erodability (K) factor indicates the susceptibility of soils to erosion and is directly controlled by soil and geological characteristics. Cover management factor (C) This factor describes the effects of crops and management practices on soil loss rates. and each K values were added to these points in order to make a continuous surface using the inverse distance weighted interpolation method for generating spatial distributed K factor map (Fig. porosity.37 (gravelly sandy clay loam). Kerala.20 (gravelly clay loam). but in this study. organic matter content. the R factor value of the entire study area is considered as uniform. 0.20 and 0. gravelly sandy clay. Central points for each class of soil type were generated in GIS. which shows sudden changes in slope and elevation. geographical information system is used. gravelly loam. Rainfall erosivity (R) The rainfall erosivity (R) factor has the lead role in estimating annual average soil erosion. and sin slope is the sin of slope angle in degrees. Pi is the monthly rainfall (mm). 7) put forward by Moore and Burch (1986a. (Wischmeier 1971). which quantifies the mixed effect of rainfall action and runoff on the soil erosion (Wischmeier and Smith 1978). LS ¼ ðflow accumulation  cell size=22 : 13Þ0:4  ðsinslope=0:0896Þ1:3 ð7Þ where LS is the combined slope length and slope steepness factor.36 t ha h ha−1 MJ−1 mm−1with a mean and standard deviation values of 0. such as parent material. Major soil textural classes found in the area are sandy clay loam. 3b).58. texture. The R factor is the most difficult one to calculate compared to other five parameters in RUSLE because of the non-availability of continuous monitoring of rainfall for a period of time. The LS factor is the combination of slope length (L) and steepness (S) in which the former controls the sediment detachment and generation and the latter controls the movement of these sediment in response to heavy rainfall and related runoff. 2012). flow accumulation denotes the accumulated upslope contributing area for a given cell. and permeability class.030 t ha h ha−1 MJ−1 mm−1. respectively.19 MJ mm ha−1 h−1 year−1. and the value ranges from 0 to 81. High C factor values indicate more vulnerability to soil erosion. and P is the annual rainfall (mm). which define the average annual soil loss in an area. respectively. R factor is calculated from rainfall data of 5 years (2005–2009) collected from the Indian Meteorological Department for a single rain gauge station in the central part of the study area. b). In the present study. cell size is the size of grid cell (for this study 20 m). The highest value (928. normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI)-based . It evaluates the effect of rainfall and runoff over the canopy and ground cover over the soil erosion (Prasannakumar et al. In the present analysis. The spatial map of K factor showed a maximum value of 0. Numerous methods have been proposed to improve the calculation of the topographic factor LS. The rainfall erosivity factor (R) for the years 2005–2009 was found to be in the range of 400. The corresponding K values for the soil types were identified from the soil erodability nomograph (USDA 1978) by considering the particle size. in the RUSLE equation. It is therefore widely used for conservation practices assessment. For the generation of the factor using this equation.39 and 16.

082. the C factor ranges between 0. The spatial distribution of crop management (C) factor is given in Fig. 3c. respectively. 2009.  NDVI C ¼ exp −α ðβ−NDVIÞ  ð8Þ where α and β are unit less parameters that determine the shape of the curve relating to NDVI and the C factor. .Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Fig. with a mean and standard deviation of 0. and the values of 2 and 1 were selected for the parameters α and β. and (d) P factor assessment of C factor was carried out by the Eq.576.001 and 0. 8. Van der Knijff et al. respectively. 2012). (c) C factor. (b) LS factor. 3 Spatial distribution of RUSLE parameters: (a) K factor. In the present analysis. This equation is effectively used by many researchers for finding out the spatial distribution of C factor (Kouli et al.108 and 0. Prasannakumar et al. (2000) found that this scaling approach gave better results than assuming a linear relationship.

Renard et al. land use/land cover. In this. most of the area is occupied by Fig.2857) and rubber plantations (0. relative relief (0. drainage frequency (0. the P factor map was derived from the land use/ land cover and support factors (Fig. Contributions of feature classes in conditioning the terrain for soil erosion were also rated in the same manner. in which the highest value is assigned to areas with no conservation practices (cleared areas and grasslands). after statistically assessing its role in making the terrain vulnerable to soil erosion using the AHP method. and minimum values correspond to built-up land and plantation area with contour cropping.2051).1538).Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Conservation practice factor (P) The P factor accounts for the effect of soil loss due to specific support practices and the contour tillage effect (Wischmeier and Smith 1978. On land use/land cover. which underwent rapid terrain modification through shifting cultivation and developmental activities. The values of P factor ranges from 0 to 1. In the present study. 4 Spatial distribution of (a) potential soil erosion index and (b) soil erosion severity classes illustrating the soil erosion risk conditions . most of the rubber plantations and crop lands are converted as terraced by making contour bunds. drainage density. Among the factors. The slope abruptly changes from place to place.0256). Dabral et al. viz. which do not have any protection measures. slope. drainage frequency. The least values are shown by drainage density (0.2308 followed by land use/land cover (0. utilizing the techniques of AHP and RUSLE. and relative relief. Both the analyses were performed in the spatial analyst extension of ArcGIS software. combined with land use practices and terrain characters of the area. All the RUSLE parameters derived were multiplied using a geographical information system to produce the spatial distribution map of annual average soil loss in the area. the class cleared area shows maximum value (0. The analysis begins with assessing the individual themes ratings by manually assigning the import values and processing the AHP. In the study area.. 1997. geomorphology. making the terrain more vulnerable for soil erosion. Hence. lineament frequency.1071). followed by crop land (0.1795).3214). and the results are detailed in the following sections. Results and discussion Analyses were performed with the aim of identifying and delineating the potential soil erosion prone zones and annual average soil erosion rate in the area.0769) and lineament frequency (0. the variable slope shows a maximum rating of 0. Vulnerable areas of soil erosion in the highland sub-watershed were derived by integrating seven geo-environmental variables. and geomorphology (0.1282) with consistency ratio of 0. these areas are comparatively safer zone compared to other areas. 3d).0014. 2008). These reduce the rapid flow of water by checking the velocity and allowing settling down the sediments.

4a).18 9. which come in the slope class>35° (0.77 72.60) and frequency (0.047 (low) to 0. The relative relief. and during the replanting period. 5 Predicted annual soil loss (t h−1 year−1) rubber plantations.2353) and denudational slope (0.23 0–3 3–10 10–75 75–150 >150 .23 18. low.2447) followed by valley fill (0.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Fig. make the area more susceptible to soil erosion.68 41.5625) zones together with high lineament frequency (0. This map was reclassified on the basis of soil erosion probability index values using the defined interval into five classes. viz.12 33. also increases the tendency to detach and flow the soil down the slope. the area is more exposed to rain fall and associated soil erosion. The contribution of geomorphology in making the area susceptible to soil erosion is by side slope plateau (0.03 19. indicating spatial pattern of probability of soil erosion in the area (Fig. Integrated potential soil erosion index maps show the probability value ranges from 0. High drainage density (0.36). which indicates sudden elevation changes in a short distance. high. which represent the area distribution of soil erosion severity classes (Fig.58 40. and critical.39 4. 4b). Table 3 Area distributions of soil erosion severity classes with average annual soil erosion rate in each zone Soil erosion severity classes Area (km2) Area (%) Annual average soil erosion rate (t−1 h−1 year−1) Nil Low Moderate High Critical 54.379 (high). nil.2059). moderate..50) zones.23 25.

The variables that are considered to be conditioning the terrain susceptible to soil erosion were also identified through the cross comparison technique. 5). of India Anon (2009) State of environment report. of India Arar A. India. central Chile. Hazard Vulnerability and Risk Assessment (HVRA) Cell. but losing more than 150 t h−1year−1. Pradhan B. using Geo-spatial tools. The finding of the present analysis enhances the applicability of produced erosion severity and rate map for framing better management strategies. precisely in the side slope plateau. Park HJ. Kalteh AM (2012) Soil erosion and sediment yield modeling using RS and GIS techniques: a case study. The classified soil erosion severity map shows that 25. and relative relief along with geomorphology of the area make the terrain more susceptible to soil erosion. denudational slope.39 % of the total area with average annual soil loss of <15. variables such as slope. UK. Matori ANB. GIS and precipitation data for the assessment of soil erosion rate in the catchment area of “Yialias” in Cyprus. Iran. AHPbased potential soil erosion maps were classified into different classes. Other erosion potential categories. Arab J Geosci 5(1):285–296 Arnoldus HMJ (1980) An approximation of rainfall factor in the universal soil loss equation. In: De Boodt M. This cross-matching of different spatial domains enables the identification of maximum soil erosion rate in the distinctive soil erosion severity class. respectively. together makes the area more vulnerable to soil erosion and associated environmental degradation. Acknowledgments The authors are grateful to the Head. helps the user community to frame proper terrain management and soil conservation strategies specific to the area. Moreover. Ministry of Environment and Forest. Chil J Agric Res 70(1):159–169 Chandio IA. Chenchouni H (2013) A simple geomatics-based approach for assessing water erosion hazard at montane areas.12. which determine and control the rate and amount of soil erosion. using AHP and RUSLE methods. The study has also demonstrated the usefulness of remote sensing and geographical information system and its versatility in accommodating AHP and RUSLE methods for modeling and evaluating the geo-environmental status of the area. and P). which together occupy 22. Kerala State Disaster Management Authority. LS. Arab J Geosci 7(1): 1–12 Arekhi S. undergoing rapid degradation due to anthropogenic and natural causes. Reyes JL. The assessed annual average soil loss of the area had shown a wide range of value varying from 0– 4227 t h−1 year−1. Among the seven determinant variables used for the assessment of critical soil erosion prone areas. 127–132 Bonilla CA. Wiley.Author's personal copy Arab J Geosci Spatial prediction of annual average soil erosion rate in the highland agricultural watershed was estimated by the RUSLE method.36 t h−1year−1. The authors are thankful to the anonymous reviewers for constructive comments and suggestions. and 18. In order to achieve this. C. with mean and standard deviation of 200. Lawal DU (2013) GIS-based analytic hierarchy process as a . moderate.03 % of the total area comes under nil soil erosion potential with tolerable rate of soil erosion <3 t h−1 year−1. e-J Earth Sci India 2(3): 187–195 Alexakis DD. Govt. like low.15 and 318.62 % of the total area. Balogun AL. an attempt has been made to determine the critical soil erosion prone areas along with the spatial pattern of annual average soil loss. Conclusion The study area constitutes a typical upland agricultural watershed in the Western Ghats of Kerala. the crosscomparison of the results also indicates the role of geoenvironmental variable in conditioning the terrain vulnerable to soil erosion. Govt. and then crossed with an annual average rate of soil erosion map in the area. WanYusof KB. K. by multiplying the five parameters (R. Niazi Y. In the present study. Areas with varying and unscientific agricultural practices on the elevated high steep slopes. Hadjimitsis DG. Chichester. Department of Revenue and Disaster Management for providing the constant inspiration and support. References Ahmed P (2009) Impact of change in forest cover on soil status in Kahmil Watershed. The critical soil erosion severity zone occupies <5 % of the total area. Gabriels D (eds) Assessment of erosion. Talpur MAH. The cross-validation of the results of potential soil erosion prone zone and annual average soil loss in the area was carried out in the ArcGIS platform for better understanding of overall soil erosion spatial vulnerability. The success rate of the produced soil erosion severity map and soil erosion rate map was validated with cross-comparison of the results. The erosion severity classes were rated depending upon the range of annual average soil erosion rate. along with the cross-comparison of the soil erosion maps. Atmos Res Perspect Precipitation Sci I 131:108–124 Althuwaynee OF. land use/land cover. The classified soil erosion severity zone map shows the critical and high soil erosion severity classes were concentrated on the side slope plateau and denudational slope. respectively (Fig. Details of each erosion severity class and annual average soil erosion rate in each class were given in Table 3. Magri A (2010) Water erosion prediction using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) in a GIS framework. and high.23. Catena 114:21–36 Anon (2008) Annual report (2007–08): Ministry of Agriculture. The spatial distribution of high annual soil loss seen in the high altitude and sloping regions. and valley fills in those regions. 33. occupy 19. Lee JH (2014) A novel ensemble bivariate statistical evidential belief function with knowledge-based analytical hierarchy process and multivariate statistical logistic regression for landslide susceptibility mapping. which comes in the side slope plateau and denudational slopes. This. The predicted annual average soil erosion rate ranges from 0 to 4227 t h−1year−1.75 and <150 t h−1 year−1. Agapiou A (2013) Integrated use of remote sensing. J&K.

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