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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Consistency of wind erosion assessments across land use and land cover types: A critical analysis

  • Author(s): Li, J
  • Okin, GS
  • Tatarko, J
  • Webb, NP
  • Herrick, JE
  • et al.

© 2014 Elsevier B.V. In recent decades, large areas of rangeland have been converted to cropland or vice versa in the western United States and elsewhere in the world, driven largely by increased crop prices, loss of access to irrigation water, and agricultural expansion/contraction. Wind erosion and dust emissions are key processes that have not been well studied during land use and associated land cover changes. This assessment is challenging because currently no model is available that can provide field- to landscape-scale estimates of wind erosion on both rangeland and cropland, and account for soil, vegetation and management changes. In this paper, we compare aeolian sediment transport estimates from available cropland models and a number of mass flux equations developed for rangelands, for a bare soil surface with different levels of crust and surface roughness under different wind speeds. Our results show that the simulated horizontal sediment mass fluxes are similar for cropland and rangeland models at large surface crust coverage and aerodynamic roughness. In situations of small to moderate crust cover and soil roughness, horizontal mass fluxes varied by over three orders of magnitude among the tested models. A correlation analysis shows that horizontal mass fluxes simulated by cropland and rangeland models are correlated, with correlation R 2 of 0.37-0.99 across different models. Finally, we propose an approach to estimate changes in aeolian transport with changes in land use. Although this approach may be limited to situations of unvegetated surfaces, it provides a preliminary method for land managers and policymakers to estimate potential wind erosion changes in response to land use change.

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