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Impacts of improved grazing land management on sediment yields, Part 1: Hillslope processes
- Bartley, Rebecca, Corfield, Jeff P., Abbott, Brett N., Hawdon, Aaron A., Wilkinson, Scott N., Nelson, Brigid
- Journal of hydrology 2010 v.389 no.3-4 pp. 237-248
- biomass, business enterprises, drainage, dry matter accumulation, grazing, grazing management, landscapes, pastures, profitability, rain, rivers, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, sodic soils, soil erosion, soil quality, streams, watersheds, wet season, Australia
- Poor land condition resulting from unsustainable grazing practices can reduce enterprise profitability and increase water, sediment and associated nutrient runoff from properties and catchments. This paper presents the results of a 6year field study that used a series of hillslope flume experiments to evaluate the impact of improved grazing land management (GLM) on hillslope runoff and sediment yields. The study was carried out on a commercial grazing property in a catchment draining to the Burdekin River in northern Australia. During this study average ground cover on hillslopes increased from ∼35% to ∼75%, although average biomass and litter levels are still relatively low for this landscape type (∼60 increasing to 1100kg of dry matter per hectare). Pasture recovery was greatest on the upper and middle parts of hillslopes. Areas that did not respond to the improved grazing management had <10% cover and were on the lower slopes associated with the location of sodic soil and the initiation of gullies. Comparison of ground cover changes and soil conditions with adjacent properties suggest that grazing management, and not just improved rainfall conditions, were responsible for the improvements in ground cover in this study. The ground cover improvements resulted in progressively lower runoff coefficients for the first event in each wet season, however, runoff coefficients were not reduced at the annual time scale. The hillslope annual sediment yields declined by ∼70% on two out of three hillslopes, although where bare patches (with <10% cover) were connected to gullies and streams, annual sediment yields increased in response to higher rainfall in latter years of the study. It appears that bare patches are the primary source areas for both runoff and erosion on these hillslopes. Achieving further reductions in runoff and erosion in these landscapes may require management practices that improve ground cover and biomass in bare areas, particularly when they are located adjacent to concentrated drainage lines.