Integrating farming systems and landscape processes to assess management impacts on suspended sediment loads

Vigiak, O. and Newham, L. T. H. and Whitford, J. and Roberts, A. M. and Rattray, D. and Melland, A. R. (2011) Integrating farming systems and landscape processes to assess management impacts on suspended sediment loads. Environmental Modelling and Software, 26 (2). pp. 144-162. ISSN 1364-8152


A catchment-scale framework was developed to assess the contribution of sediment sources from farm management actions, gully and streambank erosion on the suspended sediment loads delivered to rivers and associated wetlands and floodplains for two catchments (Avon Richardson, 2885 square km and Avoca, 4550 square km) in Victoria, south-eastern Australia. After considering commonly available data sets, outputs from the point-scale model (HowLeaky2008) were coupled to a catchment scale framework (CatchMODS). Spatially constant, linear scaling factors were used to link point-scale water surplus to streamflow and gross soil loss to hillslope erosion. The model was calibrated against discharge and suspended sediment loads estimated at water quality monitoring gauging stations. Following calibration, estimates of annual and monthly streamflow and 10-year average annual sediment loads were in good agreement with observations. Catchment-scale outputs, particularly sediment loads, were sensitive to scaling factors. The high sensitivity coupled with limited data hindered tight identification of sediment scaling parameters, therefore sediment outputs were uncertain, particularly in the Avoca catchment. Propagation of uncertainty in parameter estimation to model estimates was assessed qualitatively. The boundaries of model estimations were assessed by retaining predictions of behavioural parameter sets, defined as parameter sets that resulted in efficiencies of sediment load and specific sediment yield estimations not more than 5% lower than the efficiency of the optimal parameter set. Under current management conditions, mean annual suspended sediment load at the Avon-Richardson catchment outlet was estimated to be 3350 (3300-3700) t y -1, of which hillslope erosion contributed 65% (60-80%) and gully erosion 35% (20-40%). In the Avoca catchment, annual suspended sediment load was estimated to be 4000 (3500-5100) t y -1, of which hillslope erosion contributed 17% (5-24%), gully erosion 72% (55-93%), and streambank erosion 11% (1-21%). In the Avon-Richardson catchment management scenarios showed that alternative farming systems focussed on retaining vegetation cover throughout the year would yield a 50 per cent reduction of suspended sediment load, estimated at 1700 t y -1. In contrast, fencing and revegetation of connected gullies was estimated to yield the largest reduction in suspended sediment load (1770 t y -1, 44% of current load) in the Avoca catchment. The framework provides an improved tool to make more informed decisions about how much suspended sediment loads can be reduced in response to farm management actions, gully and streambank protection. Its primary strength lies in the ability to propagate farm management impacts to the catchment scale. Other valuable features for use by natural resource management agencies include a high level of transparency, availability of user-friendly interfaces, and a modular structure that provides flexibility and adaptability to new systems.

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Item Type: Article (Commonwealth Reporting Category C)
Refereed: Yes
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Permanent restricted access to published version due to publisher copyright policy.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Engineering and Surveying - Department of Agricultural, Civil and Environmental Engineering
Date Deposited: 05 May 2012 02:08
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2014 00:55
Uncontrolled Keywords: CatchMODS; erosion model; HowLeaky2008; model coupling; sediments; water quality
Fields of Research : 09 Engineering > 0907 Environmental Engineering > 090702 Environmental Engineering Modelling
04 Earth Sciences > 0403 Geology > 040310 Sedimentology
07 Agricultural and Veterinary Sciences > 0701 Agriculture, Land and Farm Management > 070101 Agricultural Land Management
Socio-Economic Objective: D Environment > 96 Environment > 9609 Land and Water Management > 960905 Farmland, Arable Cropland and Permanent Cropland Water Management
Identification Number or DOI: 10.1016/j.envsoft.2010.09.001

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