Spatial modelling to establish priorities for erosion control in commercial forestry plantations.
Horswell, Michael Wilbur.
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Commercial forestry is recognized for both its economic contribution as well as its environmental impact. Of particular concern, is the soil erosion and sedimentation of watercourses associated with forestry plantations. Environmental laws regulate many of the activities of the forestry sector. It is critical that the forestry sector ensure that its operations are compliant with the legal requirements that govern its use of natural resources. In pursuing legal compliance it is necessary to ensure that erosion control strategies are developed so as to ensure the positive effects of any interventions are optimised. The identification of areas that are particularly at risk to erosion or contribute to sediment delivery is an essential component in prioritising areas for management interventions. Establishing the erosion potential for commercial forestry areas is readily accomplished through the application of existing models. Process based erosion models generally have greater data requirements than the empirically derived USLE-based models. Given the paucity of data available, the latter approach was adopted. Two methods of topographic sub-factor derivation were investigated, those associated with the RUSLE (Renard, Foster, Weesies & McCool1991) and the Unit Stream Power method presented by Moore and Burch (1986). Since no existing methods identifying delivery risk areas existed, a method was developed based on principles and factors identified in the literature. Additionally, methods for identifying topographic assets, in terms of sediment attenuation, were developed. From these models three indices were derived; sediment supply, delivery risk and sediment attenuation. Thereafter, the mean Sediment Supply Index was divided by stream length for small catchments defined within the landscape to derive an index of sediment loading to streams. This index is used to identify priorities for management intervention across the landscape. The mean slope and sediment supply is used to develop buffer width recommendations for the streams draining the catchments, using a method developed by Karssies and Prosser (2001). Using the three indices in conjunction it is possible to make on-site and off-site erosion control recommendations as well as identify and exploit any natural features that can be utilized in erosion control.