Evolution of the effectiveness of stone bunds and trenches in reducing runoff and soil loss in the semi-arid Ethiopian highlands

Gebeyehu Taye, Jean Poesen, Matthias Vanmaercke, Bas Van Wesemael, Lotte Martens, Daniel Teka, Jan Nyssen, Jozef Deckers, Veerle Vanacker, Nigussie Haregeweyn, Vincent Hallet

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    Soil and Water Conservation (SWC) structures, in particular stone bunds and conservation trenches, have been extensively installed in Tigray since the 1980's. As the effectiveness of stone bunds and trenches in reducing runoff and soil loss depends on their retention capacities, it can be expected that this effectiveness declines over time due to infilling with sediment. However, little is known about the rate of this decline during subsequent years. We therefore assessed the effectiveness of SWC structures for two land use types, three slope classes and during three consecutive rainy seasons. Rainfall, runoff and soil loss were measured using 21 large (600-1,000m2) runoff plots at Mayleba catchment. Results show that all studied SWC structures are more effective in reducing soil loss than runoff. Conservation trenches are generally more effective in reducing runoff and soil loss than stone bunds. However, due to their infilling with sediment, their effectiveness quickly declines over time. By the end of the third rainy season, their effectiveness was reduced to about one third of their initial effectiveness. The effectiveness of stone bunds remained fairly constant during three consecutive rainy seasons. These findings have important implications, as they demonstrate that many of the installed SWC structures (especially in rangelands) are only very effective for short periods (one to two years). Regular sediment removal from conservation trenches is therefore crucial to preserve their effectiveness over longer periods.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)477-493
    Number of pages17
    JournalZeitschrift fur Geomorphologie
    Issue number4
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2015


    • Soil conservation
    • Soil erosion
    • Storage capacity
    • Tigray

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