Prediction of Soil and Nutrient Losses in A Highland Catchment

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Highland catchments in tropical regions are frequently subjected to soil erosion and the transport of chemicals downstream. Any drastic changes in land use will increase the severity of these processes of land degradation. A simulation study using GLEAMS (Groundwater Loading Effects of Agricultural Management Systems) was conducted at a catchment presently under tea farming in Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. Soil, water and nutrient transport associated with several alternative land uses was studied. In addition, the effect of a disruptive form of land clearing on soil, water and nutrient losses was also investigated. Modelling with GLEAMS required information from field measurements and observations, laboratory analyses, guide tables, industry records, maps and reports published by soil survey and meteorological departments. The most critical step in simulating soil and water movement using GLEAMS is the identification of a representative flow sequence. In the catchment under study, the representative flow sequence was overland flow–channel 1–channel 2. Input data on soil erodibility, porosity and surface roughness were manipulated to represent various degrees and forms of disturbance to the surface soil layer. For all land uses studied, the highest soil loss was predicted for the overland flow area where slope gradient is high and the soil friable. The variations in soil loss, runoff and nutrient loss between landscape elements and between land uses were consistent with soil erosion features observed in the field. Soil and nutrient losses were substantial for crops such as cabbage that required land shaping activities and frequent ploughing of the soil. Predicted data on enrichment ratio of specific surface (ERSS) are consistent with nutrient enrichment processes in the field and could prove to be useful in studies on chemical transport in highland catchments

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