A GIS-based Framework for Examining the Effects of Water-Driven Erosion on Soil Biogeochemical Cycling

Thursday, 18 December 2014
Benjamin K Abban1, Thanos Papanicolaou1, Kenneth Wacha2 and Christopher G Wilson1, (1)University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN, United States, (2)IIHR-Hydroscience & Engineering University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, United States
Soil erosion has long been identified as one of the key mechanisms affecting biogeochemical processes in the soil, through the transport and delivery of carbon and nutrients adsorbed to soil particles in the soil active layer. However, most biogeochemical models treat soil erosion contributions simplistically and lack the capacity to accurately account for the mechanisms that control soil erosion and deposition on the landscape. This stems from the fact that the majority of the biogeochemical models have traditionally been employed on landscapes where lateral and downslope fluxes due to soil erosion have been less significant compared to other vertical fluxes and processes occurring at a fixed location on the landscape. In intensely managed landscapes, however, this may not be the case since land management practices such as tillage and exposed land cover can lead to copious amounts of erosion on the landscape. Therefore, to better understand the role of soil erosion on soil biogeochemical cycling in IMLs, we present a framework for simulating the spatiotemporal effects of soil erosion and deposition on soil biogeochemical cycling. We focus specifically on tillage- and runoff-induced erosion since these are prevalent in IMLs. The framework employs a geospatial approach that loosely couples a GIS-based upland water erosion model, GeoWEPP, with a soil biogeochemistry model, Century, to predict downslope and lateral fluxes of soil erosion and the resultant impacts on soil biogeochemical cycling. The use of a geospatial approach allows us to better capture the effects of topography, soil type, land use/land cover, and climate on soil erosion fluxes as well as soil biogeochemical cycling. The spatiotemporal resolution of the framework makes it particularly beneficial for identifying hotspots in fields and hot moments at scales ranging from daily to annual time scales. We employ the framework to study the monthly redistribution of soil organic carbon over the course of a year in the South Amana Sub-Watershed, located in the headwaters of Clear Creek, Iowa, USA. Preliminary results indicate that the framework is able to capture observed erosional and depositional patterns in the watershed and can provide insight into soil carbon redistribution and sequestration.