Predicting sheetwash and rill erosion over the Australian continent

Hua Lu, Ian Prosser, Chris John Moran, Graeme Priestley, John C Gallant, Janelle Stevenson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


    Soil erosion is a major environmental issue in Australia. It reduces land productivity and has off-site effects of decreased water quality. Broad-scale spatially distributed soil erosion estimation is essential for prioritising erosion control programs and as a component of broader assessments of natural resource condition. This paper describes spatial modelling methods and results that predict sheetwash and rill erosion over the Australian continent using the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) and spatial data layers for each of the contributing environmental factors. The RUSLE has been used before in this way but here we advance the quality of estimation. We use time series of remote sensing imagery and daily rainfall to incorporate the effects of seasonally varying cover and rainfall intensity, and use new digital maps of soil and terrain properties. The results are compared with a compilation of Australian erosion plot data, revealing an acceptable consistency between predictions and observations. The modelling results show that: (1) the northern part of Australia has greater erosion potential than the south; (2) erosion potential differs significantly between summer and winter; (3) the average erosion rate is 4.1 t/ha.year over the continent and about 2.9 × 10 9 tonnes of soil is moved annually which represents 3.9% of global soil erosion from 5% of world land area; and (4) the erosion rate has increased from 4 to 33 times on average for agricultural lands compared with most natural vegetated lands.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)1037-1062
    JournalAustralian Journal of Soil Research
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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