A Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model for Developing Ecological Site Descriptions

Monday, 15 December 2014: 9:45 AM
Mark Almon Nearing1,2, Mariano Hernandez3, Gerardo Armendariz2,3, Steve Barker3 and C. Jason Williams4, (1)USDA ARS, Pendleton, OR, United States, (2)USDA-ARS, Southwest Watershed Research Center, Tucson, AZ, United States, (3)USDA ARS, Tucson, AZ, United States, (4)USDA-ARS, Boise, ID, United States
Predicting soil erosion is common practice in natural resource management for assessing the effects of management practices and control techniques of soil productivity, sediment delivery and off site water quality. The Rangeland Hydrology and Erosion Model (RHEM) was designed for this purpose. RHEM is an event-based model that estimates runoff, erosion, and sediment delivery rates and volumes at the spatial scale of the hillslope and the temporal scale of as single rainfall event. It represents erosion processes under normal and fire-impacted rangeland conditions. Moreover, it adopts a new splash erosion and thin sheet –flow transport equation developed from rangeland data, and it links the model hydrologic and erosion parameters with rangeland plant community by providing a new system of parameter estimation equations based on 204 plots at 49 rangeland sites distributed across 15 western U.S. states. Testing was done using long-term runoff and erosion data from small semi-aridland catchments. One of our goals with this project is to develop a framework for incorporating key ecohydrologic information/relationships in Ecological Site Descriptions and thereby enhanced utility of Ecological Site Descriptions s for guiding management. These key ecohydrologic relationships govern the ecologic resilience of the various states and community phases on many rangeland ecological sites and are strongly affected by management practices, land use, and disturbances. However, ecohydrologic data and relationships are often missing in Ecological Site Descriptions and resilience-based state-and-transition models. In this study we applied the RHEM model to data from multiple points in several ecological sites in Arizona, New Mexico, and Utah to assess the utility of the model for informing these Ecological Site Descriptions.