Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Carkovic A.B., Pastén P.A. and Bonilla C.A. (2015)

Sediment composition for the assessment of water erosion and nonpoint source pollution in natural and fire-affected landscapes

Revista : Science of the Total Environment
Volumen : 512-513
Páginas : 26-35
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Water erosion is a leading cause of soil degradation and a major nonpoint source pollution problem. Many efforts have been undertaken to estimate the amount and size distribution of the sediment leaving the field. Multi-size class water erosion models subdivide eroded soil into different sizes and estimate the aggregate’s composition based on empirical equations derived from agricultural soils. The objective of this study was to evaluate these equations on soil samples collected from natural landscapes (uncultivated) and fire-affected soils. Chemical, physical, and soil fractions and aggregate composition analyses were performed on samples collected in the Chilean Patagonia and later compared with the equations’ estimates. The results showed that the empirical equations were not suitable for predicting the sediment fractions. Fine particles, including primary clay, primary silt, and small aggregates (< 53 μm) were over-estimated, and large aggregates (> 53 μm) and primary sand were under-estimated. The uncultivated and fire-affected soils showed a reduced fraction of fine particles in the sediment, as clay and silt were mostly in the form of large aggregates. Thus, a new set of equations was developed for these soils, where small aggregates were defined as particles with sizes between 53 μm and 250 μm and large aggregates as particles > 250 μm. With r2 values between 0.47 and 0.98, the new equations provided better estimates for primary sand and large aggregates. The aggregate’s composition was also well predicted, especially the silt and clay fractions in the large aggregates from uncultivated soils (r2 = 0.63 and 0.83, respectively) and the fractions of silt in the small aggregates (r2 = 0.84) and clay in the large aggregates (r2 = 0.78) from fire-affected soils. Overall, these new equations proved to be better predictors for the sediment and aggregate’s composition in uncultivated and fire-affected soils, and they reduce the error when estimating soil loss in natural landscapes.