Effects of rainfall intensity and slope on sediment, nitrogen and phosphorous losses in soils with different use and soil hydrological properties
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The aim of this research was to analyse the effect of rainfall intensity and slope on soil and nutrient losses by hydric erosion in soils with different hydrological characteristics. This research was carried out on soils collected from slopes with different land uses/covers (LU/LC) -forest, scrub, agricultural, afforested and barren land-, from a mountain area (Sierra de Santo Domingo in the South Pyrenean region), where intensive farming and land use changes including land abandonment and changes in soil cover have occurred. Soils were placed on erosion boxes (30 cm × 20 cm) and compacted to a bulk density similar to that measured in the field (slope values ranged between 10 and 20%). Soil properties such as organic matter content, soil texture and N and P contents were analysed (values used as concentration in the original soil). Soils were subjected to simulated rainfall with intensity values usually recorded in the area during storms. Runoff volumes were collected at 10 min intervals from the time that runoff was generated. The steady infiltration rate as well as the average runoff rates and soil losses were evaluated for each land use. In the runoff samples, sediment concentration and nutrients (N and P) were analysed using different aliquots. The comparative analysis of the results obtained under simulated rainfall in plots with soils from different land uses allowed determining the differences in contribution of each land use to soil and nutrient losses when they are subjected to similar rainfall intensities. The results showed that the maximum runoff rates were reached in agricultural soil and barren land after 40 min at low intensity and after about 20 min at high intensity. However, in soils under forest, scrub and afforestation, runoff rates were much lower for the same rainfall intensity and duration period. Soil sealing was the main factor reducing infiltration in the agricultural and in barren LU/LC soils, while in the other cases runoff was mainly produced after saturation. Soil losses were more than 10xtimes higher in barren land and in agricultural soils than in the other land uses. Nitrogen losses in agricultural soils were about 3 times higher than in forest, and scrub or in afforested LU/LC. Under high intensity rainfall, there was an enrichment ratio (ER) of nitrogen in the sediment in relation to the original soil, which was higher in scrub and agricultural lands (up to 1.33 and 1.32, respectively) than in the rest of land uses (1.1 on average). Phosphorous losses were mainly associated with soil particles and the land uses that gave rise to higher P losses was agricultural under any intensity, while P losses increased significantly in forest and afforested LU/LC at high intensity. The enrichment ratio (ER) was higher in agricultural soils (up to 1.82, increasing with intensity), forest and afforested LU/LC (1.33 and 1.16, respectively under high intensity) than in scrub (1.22) and barren lands (near 1). Information gained in this research can be of interest to manage mountain agroecosystems to limit N and P supply from headwaters to hydrological systems.