Main content area

The development of U. S. soil erosion prediction and modeling

Laflen, John M., Flanagan, Dennis C.
International soil and water conservation research 2013 v.1 no.2 pp. 1-11
Universal Soil Loss Equation, Water Erosion Prediction Project, conservation practices, cropland, forests, prediction, rangelands, soil, soil erosion
Soil erosion prediction technology began over 70 years ago when Austin Zingg published a relationship between soil erosion (by water) and land slope and length, followed shortly by a relationship by Dwight Smith that expanded this equation to include conservation practices. But, it was nearly 20 years before this work's expansion resulted in the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), perhaps the foremost achievement in soil erosion prediction in the last century. The USLE has increased in application and complexity, and its usefulness and limitations have led to the development of additional technologies and new science in soil erosion research and prediction. Main among these new technologies is the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model, which has helped to overcome many of the shortcomings of the USLE, and increased the scale over which erosion by water can be predicted. Areas of application of erosion prediction include almost all land types: urban, rural, cropland, forests, rangeland, and construction sites. Specialty applications of WEPP include prediction of radioactive material movement with soils at a superfund cleanup site, and near real-time daily estimation of soil erosion for the entire state of Iowa.