Soil erosion assessment using the Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE) in a GIS framework: A case study of Zacatecas, México

Monday, 15 December 2014
Lucia Ivonne Betanzos Arroyo1, Rosa María Prol Ledesma1 and Fernando Jorge Pedro da Silva Pinto da Rocha2, (1)Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico, Instituto de Geofísica, Mexico City, Mexico, (2)Universidade de Lisboa, Centro de Estudos Geográficos, Lisbon, Portugal
The Universal Soil Loss Equation (USLE), which is considered to be a contemporary approach in soil loss assessment, was used to assess soil erosion hazard in the Zacatecas mining district. The purpose of this study is to produce erosion susceptibility maps for an area that is polluted with mining tailings which are susceptible to erosion and can disperse the particles that contain heavy metals and other toxic elements. USLE method is based in the estimation of soil loss per unit area and takes into account specific parameters such as precipitation data, topography, soil erodibility, erosivity and runoff. The R-factor (rainfall erosivity) was calculated from monthly and annual precipitation data. The K-factor (soil erodibility) was estimated using soil maps available from the CONABIO at a scale of 1:250000. The LS-factor (slope length and steepness) was determined from a 30-m digital elevation model. A raster-based Geographic Information System (GIS) was used to interactively calculate soil loss and map erosion hazard. The results show that estimated erosion rates ranged from 0 to 4770.48 t/ha year. Maximum proportion of the total area of the Zacatecas mining district have nil to very extremely slight erosion severity. Small areas in the central and south part of the study area shows the critical condition requiring sustainable land management.