Influence of topographic factors on piping processes, Murcia (Spain)

A. Romero Díaz, F. Alonso Sarría, A. Sánchez Soriano


Usually, different mechanical, chemical or biological causes of piping development have been described, particularly those related to the hydraulic gradients and the presence of sodium into the soil. The main purpose of this paper is to analyze the topographic characteristicsof both the pipes and the agricultural plots where they appear, and to estimate the volume of sediment yield. Eight different zones, located in the Mula River basin, were studied. The slopes were terraced for cultivation and abandoned 30-40 years ago. 137 plots were selected for sampling, 71% of which showed piping processes. The results obtained show a concentration of pipes in certain areas. There is a high correlation between the volume of soil loss and the extent of piping; between the area affected by piping and the average length, depth and width of pipes; between the size of the plot and the degree of piping development; between the height of the terrace walls and the maximum depth of pipes; and, finally, between gradients and piping intensity. If topographic factors favour the presence of pipes, some plot levelling recommendations could be defined in order to minimize the risk of piping processes in the most susceptible areas.


Piping; erosion; abandoned terraced fields; topographical factors; semiarid environment


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