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  • Author: Tammo S. Steenhuis x
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Abstract

Water scarcity poses a major threat to food security and human health in Central America and is increasingly recognized as a pressing regional issues caused primarily by deforestation and population pressure. Tools that can reliably simulate the major components of the water balance with the limited data available and needed to drive management decision and protect water supplies in this region. Four adjacent forested headwater catchments in La Tigra National Park, Honduras, ranging in size from 70 to 635 ha were instrumented and discharge measured over a one year period. A semi-distributed water balance model was developed to characterize the bio-hydrology of the four catchments, one of which is primarily cloud forest cover. The water balance model simulated daily stream discharges well, with Nash Sutcliffe model efficiency (E) values ranging from 0.67 to 0.90. Analysis of calibrated model parameters showed that despite all watersheds having similar geologic substrata, the bio-hydrological response the cloud forest indicated less plantavailable water in the root zone and greater groundwater recharge than the non cloud forest cover catchments. This resulted in watershed discharge on a per area basis four times greater from the cloud forest than the other watersheds despite only relatively minor differences in annual rainfall. These results highlight the importance of biological factors (cloud forests in this case) for sustained provision of clean, potable water, and the need to protect the cloud forest areas from destruction, particularly in the populated areas of Central America.

Abstract

Eucalyptus is the tree of choice for wood production by farmers in Ethiopia. Although there are many claims about its harmful effect on ecology and water availability, little actual research exists. The main objective of this study was, therefore, to study the extent of harm of Eucalyptus on the ecosystem. This study was conducted at the Koga Watershed near Lake Tana in Ethiopia. Twenty-five farmers were interviewed and a field experiment with three replications was carried out to quantify the effect of Eucalyptus on various soil physical and chemical properties and maize crop measurements and to compare bulk density, soil moisture contents, maize crop counts and shading effects in fields bordered by Eucalyptus and Croton macrostachyus. Our results show that Eucalyptus decreased both soil nutrients and maize yields within 20 m of the trees. Although moisture content was not affected during the monsoon, it decreased faster within 30 m of the Eucalyptus trees than elsewhere. Soils become water repellent, too. Local farmers’ perception agreed with our experimental findings and indicated that Eucalyptus trees are exhausting the once productive land. They also reported that Eucalyptus dries up springs. Despite this, the growers insist on planting Eucalyptus because of its cash income.

Abstract

Soil erosion decreases soil fertility of the uplands and causes siltation of lakes and reservoirs; the lakes and reservoirs in tropical monsoonal African highlands are especially affected by sedimentation. Efforts in reducing loads by designing management practices are hampered by lack of quantitative data on the relationship of erosion in the watersheds and sediment accumulation on flood plains, lakes and reservoirs. The objective of this study is to develop a prototype quantitative method for estimating sediment budget for tropical monsoon lakes with limited observational data. Four watersheds in the Lake Tana basin were selected for this study. The Parameter Efficient Distributed (PED) model that has shown to perform well in the Ethiopian highlands is used to overcome the data limitations and recreate the missing sediment fluxes. PED model parameters are calibrated using daily discharge data and the occasionally collected sediment concentration when establishing the sediment rating curves for the major rivers. The calibrated model parameters are then used to predict the sediment budget for the 1994-2009 period. Sediment retained in the lake is determined from two bathymetric surveys taken 20 years apart whereas the sediment leaving the lake is calculated based on measured discharge and observed sediment concentrations. Results show that annually on average 34 t/ha/year of sediment is removed from the gauged part of the Lake Tana watersheds. Depending on the up-scaling method from the gauged to the ungauged part, 21 to 32 t/ha/year (equivalent to 24-38 Mt/year) is transported from the upland watersheds of which 46% to 65% is retained in the flood plains and 93% to 96% is trapped on the flood plains and in the lake. Thus, only 4-7% of all sediment produced in the watersheds leaves the Lake Tana Basin.

Abstract

Drainage of paved and unpaved roads has been implicated as a major contributor of overland flow and erosion in mountainous landscapes. Despite this, few watershed models include or have tested for the effect roads have on discharge and sediment loads. Though having a model is an important step, its proper application and attention to distinct landscape features is even more important. This study focuses on developing a module for drainage from a road and tests it on a nested watershed (Shanko Bahir) within a larger previously studied site (Debre Mawi) that receives overland flow contributions from a highly compacted layer of soil on an unpaved road surface. Shanko Bahir experiences a sub-humid monsoonal climate and was assessed for the rainy seasons of 2010, 2011, and 2012. The model chosen is the Parameter Efficient Distributed (PED) model, previously used where saturation-excess overland flow heavily influences discharge and sediment concentration variation, though infiltration-excess occasionally occurs. Since overland flow on unpaved surfaces emulates Hortonian flow, an adjustment to the PED model (the developed module) advances possible incorporation of both flow regimes. The modification resulted in similar modeling performance as previous studies in the Blue Nile Basin on a daily basis (NSE = 0.67 for discharge and 0.71 for sediment concentrations). Furthermore, the road while occupying a small proportion of the sub-watershed (11%) contributed importantly to the early discharge and sediment transport events demonstrating the effect of roads especially on sediment concentrations. Considerations for the dynamic erodibility of the road improved sediment concentration simulation further (NSE = 0.75). The results show that this PED modeling framework can be adjusted to include unpaved compacted surfaces to give reasonable results, but more work is needed to account for contributions from gullies, which can cause high influxes of sediment.

Abstract

In response to the continually increasing sediment concentrations in rivers and lakes, the Ethiopian government is leading an effort where farmers are installing soil and water conservation measures to increase infiltration and reduce erosion. This paper reports on findings from a four year study in the 95 ha Debre Mawi watershed where under the government led conservation works, mainly terraces with infiltration furrows were installed halfway in the period of observation. The results show that runoff volume decreased significantly after installation of the soil and water conservation practices but sediment concentration decreased only marginally. Sediment loads were reduced mainly because of the reduced runoff. Infiltration furrows were effective on the hillsides where rain water could infiltrate, but on the flat bottom lands that become saturated with the progress of the monsoon rain, infiltration was restricted and conservation practices became conduits for carrying excess rainfall. This caused the initiation of gullies in several occasions in the saturated bottomlands. Sediment concentration at the outlet barely decreased due to entrainment of loose soil from unstable banks of gullies in the periodically saturated bottom areas. Since most uphill drainage were already half filled up with sediments after two years, long term benefits of reducing runoff can only be sustained with continuous maintenance of uphill infiltration furrows.