Calibration and application of an erosion and C redistribution model (SPEROS-C) to twelve small catchments in southeastern Spain

E. Nadeu, Kristof Van Oost, Joris de Vente, Carolina Boix-Fayos


This paper presents a new methodology to assess sediment connectivity at the catchment scale. The proposed index CCI (Catchment Connectivity Index) is based on a combination of factors in a GIS environment that determine the connectivity of sediment in different elements (slopes, basins, channels) of the river system. The factors evaluated are the transport capacity on hillslopes (TC), check-dams’ trap efficiency (TE), the presence of geomorphological barriers (GF), flow conditions (FC) and the sediment transport capacity in channels (SP). This index was applied to estimate connectivity in the Upper Taibilla catchment (314 km2) (SE Spain) for different land use (1956 and 2006) and management (check-dams) scenarios. This catchment has suffered major land use and land cover changes over the last 50 years. The intense agricultural abandonment process and the implementation of soil erosion control measures (reforestation and check-dams) have strongly affected sediment dynamics of the basin. Calculation of the CCI allows identifying which landscape elements have most impact on the sediment (dis)connectivity at catchment scale. The results show a significant reduction in the connectivity of 76% between 1956 and 2006. However, it is observed that the check-dams contribute only 3% to this reduction. Land use changes had a much higher impact on reducing sediment connectivity, except in some areas with steep slopes, or with the development of agriculture along the main channels of the drainage network. Altogether, CCI showed to be a relatively easy and effective method that can be used for spatio-temporal sediment connectivity analyses in areas with natural and human disturbances.


sediment transport, geomorphological factors, connectivity index, check-dams, land use changes,


Alías, L.J., Ortíz, R., Hernández, J., Martínez, J., Linares, D., Alcaraz, F., Sánchez, A., Marín, P. 1991. Proyecto LUCDEME. Mapa de suelos E=1:100 000 de la hoja de Caravaca-910. Ministerio de Agricultura, ICONA, Universidad de Murcia.

Andrén, O., Kätterer, T. 1997. ICBM: The introductory carbon balance model for exploration of soil carbon balances. Ecological Applications 7, 1226-1236.

Arnold, J.G., Srinivasan, R., Muttiah, R.S., Williams, J.R. 1998. Large area hydrologic modeling and assessment. Part I: Model development. Journal of the American Water Resources Association 34, 73-89.

Berhe, A.A., Harte, J., Harden, J.W., Torn, M.S. 2007. The significance of the erosion-induced terrestrial carbon sink. BioScience 57, 337-346.

Beven, K.J., Kirkby, M.J. 1979. A physically based variable contributing area model of basin hydrology / Un modèle à base physique de zone d’appel variable de l’hydrologie du bassin versant. Hydrological Sciences Bulletin 24, 43-69.

Billings, S.A., Buddemeier, R.W., Richter, D.D., Van Oost, K., Bohling, G. 2010. A simple method for estimating the influence of eroding soil profiles on atmospheric CO2. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 24, GB2001.

Boix-Fayos, C., Barberá, G.G., López-Bermúdez, F., Castillo, V.M. 2007. Effects of check dams, reforestation and land-use changes on river channel morphology: Case study of the Rogativa catchment (Murcia, Spain). Geomorphology 91, 103-123.

Boix-Fayos, C., de Vente, J., Martínez-Mena, M., Barberá, G.G., Castillo, V. 2008. The impact of land use change and check-dams on catchment sediment yield. Hydrological Processes 22, 4922-4935.

Boix-Fayos, C., de Vente, J., Albaladejo, J., Martínez-Mena, M. 2009. Soil carbon erosion and stock as affected by land use changes at the catchment scale in Mediterranean ecosystems. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 133, 75-85.

Chaplot, V.A.M., Rumpel, C., Valentin, C. 2005. Water erosion impact on soil and carbon redistributions within uplands of Mekong River. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 19, GB4004.

De Vente, J., Poesen, J., Verstraeten, G., Van Rompaey, A., Govers, G. 2008. Spatially distributed modelling of soil erosion and sediment yield at regional scales in Spain. Global and Planetary Change 60, 393-415.

Desmet, P.J.J., Govers, G. 1996. A GIS procedure for automatically calculating the USLE LS factor on topographically complex landscape units. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 51, 427-433.

Dlugoss, V., Fiener, P., Van Oost, K., Schneider, K. 2012. Model based analysis of lateral and vertical soil carbon fluxes induced by soil redistribution processes in a small agricultural catchment. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms37, 193-208.

Einsele, G., Yan, J., Hinderer, M. 2001. Atmospheric carbon burial in modern lake basins and its significance for the global carbon budget. Global and Planetary Change 30, 167-195.

Flanagan, D.C., Nearing, M.A. 1995. USDA - Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) Hillslope Profile and Watershed Model Documentation. USDA- Agricultural Research Service, NSERL Report No. 10. National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory, West Lafayette, Indiana.

Gregorich, E.G., Greer, K.J., Anderson, D.W., Liang, B.C. 1998. Carbon distribution and losses: Erosion and deposition effects. Soil & Tillage Research 47, 291-302.

Harden, J.W., Sharpe, J.M., Parton, W.J., Ojima, D.S., Fries, T.L., Huntington, T.G., Dabney, S.M. 1999. Dynamic replacement and loss of soil carbon on eroding cropland. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 13, 885-901.

Haregeweyn, N., Poesen, J., Deckers, J., Nyssen, J., Haile, M., Govers, G., Verstraeten, G., Moeyersons, J. 2008. Sediment-bound nutrient export from micro-dam catchments in Northern Ethiopia. Land Degradation & Development 19, 136-152.

Infraestructura de datos espaciales de la Región de Murcia (IDERM) 2011. Ortofoto regional del vuelo de 1981. Diponible en: (fecha de acceso: 20/06/2011).

Instituto Geológico y Minero de España (IGME) 1979. Mapa geológico de España 1:50000. Nerpio 909, 23-26.

Jacinthe, P.A. 2001. Assessing Water Erosion Impacts on Soil Carbon Pools and Fluxes. En Assessment Methods for Soil Carbon. Advances in Soil Science, R. Lal (ed.), CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 427-449.

Jacinthe, P.A., Lal, R., Kimble, J.M. 2002. Carbon dioxide evolution in runoff from simulated rainfall on long-term no-till and plowed soils in southwestern Ohio. Soil & Tillage Research 66, 23-33.

Jacinthe, P.A., Lal, R., Owens, L.B., Hothen, D.L. 2004. Transport of labile carbon in runoff as affected by land use and rainfall characteristics. Soil & Tillage Research 77, 111-123.

Juárez, S., Rumpel, C., Mchunu, C., Chaplot, V. 2011. Carbon mineralization and lignin content of eroded sediments from a grazed watershed of South-Africa. Geoderma 167-168, 247-253.

Lal, R. 2003. Soil erosion and the global carbon budget. Environment International 29, 437-450.

Liu, S.G., Bliss, N., Sundquist, E., Huntington, T.G. 2003. Modeling carbon dynamics in vegetation and soil under the impact of soil erosion and deposition. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 17, 1074.

McCarty, G.W., Ritchie, J.C. 2002. Impact of soil movement on carbon sequestration in agricultural ecosystems. Environmental Pollution 116, 423-430.

McCarty, G., Pachevsky, Y., Ritchie, J. 2009. Impact of sedimentation on wetland carbon sequestration in an agricultural watershed. Journal of Environmental Quality 38, 804-813.

Moorman, T.B., Cambardella, C.A., James, D.E., Karlen, D.L., Kramer, L.A. 2004. Quantification of tillage and landscape effects on soil carbon in small Iowa watersheds. Soil & Tillage Research 78, 225-236.

Nadeu, E., Berhe, A.A., de Vente, J., Boix-Fayos, C. 2012. Erosion, deposition and replacement of soil organic carbon in Mediterranean catchments: a geomorphological, isotopic and land use change approach. Biogeosciences 9, 1099-1111.

Nash, J.E., Sutcliffe, J.V. 1970. River flow forecasting through conceptual models part I - A discussion of principles. Journal of Hydrology 10, 282-290.

Parton, W.J., Schimel, D.S., Cole, C.V., Ojima, D.S. 1987. Analysis of factors controlling soil organic matter levels in Great Plains grasslands. Soil Science Society of America Journal 51, 1173-1179.

Pennock, D.J., Frick, A.H. 2001. The role of field studies in landscape-scale applications of process models: an example of soil redistribution and soil organic carbon modeling using CENTURY. Soil & Tillage Research 58, 183-191.

Polyakov, V.O., Lal, R. 2004. Soil erosion and carbon dynamics under simulated rainfall. Soil Science 169, 590-599.

Renschler, C.C. 2003. Designing geo-spatial interfaces to scale process modes: the GeoWEPP approach. Hydrological Processes 17, 1005-1017.

Rosenbloom, N.A., Doney, S.C., Schimel, D.S. 2001. Geomorphic evolution of soil texture and organic matter in eroding landscapes. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 15, 365-381.

Schlesinger, W.H. 1990. Evidence from chronosequence studies for a low carbon-storage potential of soils. Nature 348, 232-234.

Shao, J.X., Tu, D. 1995. The Jackknife and Bootstrap. Springer, New York.

Smith, S.V., Sleezer, R.O., Renwick, W.H., Buddemeier, R. 2005. Fates of eroded soil organic carbon: Mississippi basin case study. Ecological Applications 15, 1929-1940.

Stallard, R.F. 1998. Terrestrial sedimentation and the carbon cycle: Coupling weathering and erosion to carbon burial. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 12, 231-257.

Starr, B. 2001. Assessing the Impact of Erosion on Soil Organic Carbon Pools and Fluxes. En Assessment Methods for Soil Carbon. Advances in Soil Science, R. Lal (ed), CRC Press, Boca Ratón, Florida, pp. 403-416.

Starr, G.C., L, R., Owens, L., Kimble, J. 2008. Empirical relationships for soil organic carbon transport from agricultural watersheds in Ohio. Land Degradation & Development 19, 57-64.

Van Hemelryck, H., Fiener, P., Van Oost, K., Govers, G., Merckx, R. 2010. The effect of soil redistribution on soil organic carbon: An experimental study. Biogeosciences 7, 3971-3986.

Van Hemeltyck, H., Govers, G., Van Oost, K., Merckx, R. 2011. Evaluating the impact of soil redistribution on the in situ mineralization of soil organic carbon. Earth Surface Process and Landforms 36, 427-438.

Van Oost, K., Govers, G., Van Muysen, W. 2003. A process-based conversion model for caesium- 137 derived erosion rates on agricultural land: An integrated spatial approach. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 28, 187-207.

Van Oost, K., Govers, G., Quine, T.A., Heckrath, G., Olesen, J.E., De Gryze, S., Merckx, R. 2005.

Landscape-scale modeling of carbon cycling under the impact of soil redistribution: The role of tillage erosion. Global Biogeochemical Cycles 19, 1733-1739.

Van Oost, K., Quine, T.A., Govers, G., De Gryze, S., Six, J., Harden, J.W., Ritchie, J.C., McCarty, G.W., Heckrath, G., Kosmas, C., Giraldez, J.V., Da Silva, J.R.M., Merckx, R. 2007. The impact of agricultural soil erosion on the global carbon cycle. Science 318, 626-629.

Van Oost, K., Cerdan, O., Quine, T.A. 2009. Accelerated sediment fluxes by water and tillage erosion on European agricultural land. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 34, 1625-1634.

Verstraeten, G., Prosser, I.P., Fogarty, P. 2007. Predicting the spatial patterns of hillslope sediment delivery to river channels in the Murrumbidgee catchment, Australia. Journal of Hydrology 334, 440-454.

Yadav, V., Malanson, G.P. 2009. Modeling impacts of erosion and deposition on soil organic carbon in the Big Creek Basin of southern Illinois. Geomorphology 106, 304-314.

Yadav, V., Malanson, G.P., Bekele, E., Lant, C. 2009. Modeling watershed-scale sequestration of soil organic carbon for carbon credit programs. Applied Geography 29, 488-500.

Yeomans, J.C., Bemmer, J.M. 1988. A rapid and precise method for routine determination of organic carbon in soil. Communications in Soil Science & Plant Analysis 19, 1467-1476.


© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 0211-6820

EISSN 1697-9540