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Effectiveness of Alternative Management Scenarios on the Sediment Load in a Mediterranean Agricultural Watershed

Ossama M.M. Abdelwahab, Ronald L. Bingner, Fabio Milillo, Francesco Gentile
Journal of agricultural engineering 2014 v.45 no.3 pp. -
agricultural watersheds, water conservation, calibration, control methods, crop rotation, cropland, erosion control, forage crops, forests, model validation, models, monitoring, no-tillage, pollution load, prediction, runoff, sediment yield, sediments, soil erosion, water quality, wheat, Italy
The Annualised Agricultural Non-point Source model was used to evaluate the effectiveness of different management practices to control the soil erosion and sediment load in the Carapelle watershed, a Mediterranean medium-size watershed (506 km²) located in Apulia, Southern Italy. The model was previously calibrated and validated using five years of runoff and sediment load data measured at a monitoring station located at Ordona - Ponte dei Sauri Bridge. A total of 36 events were used to estimate the performance of the model during the period 2007-2011. The model performed well in predicting runoff, as the high values of the coefficients of efficiency and determination during the validation process showed. The peak flows predictions were satisfactory especially for the high flow events; the prediction capability of sediment load was good, even if a slight over-estimation was observed. Simulations of alternative management practices show that converting the most eroding cropland cells (13.5% of the catchment area) to no tillage would reduce soil erosion by 30%, while converting them to grass or forest would reduce soil erosion by 36.5% in both cases. A crop rotation of wheat and a forage crop can also provide an effective way for soil erosion control as it reduces erosion by 69%. Those results can provide a good comparative analysis for conservation planners to choose the best scenarios to be adopted in the watershed to achieve goals in terms of soil conservation and water quality.