Experimental and modelling evidence of short-term effect of raindrop impact on hydraulic conductivity and overland flow intensity

Abstract : Tropical montane areas of Southeast Asia are exposed to high-intensity rainfall during the monsoon period. This is particularly problematic in areas where soils on steep slopes are cultivated as it can lead to heavy runoff, high soil erosion, and water pollution. The objective of this paper is to analyse the effect of the impact of raindrops on the dynamics of runoff on such steep fields. Experiments under simulated rainfall were performed at the plot scale (1 m2) to quantify water export from the surface of upland agricultural soils during overland flow events. Four 1 m2 plots were divided in duplicated treatment groups: (a) control with no amendments, and (b) amended with pig manure. Each plot was divided into two 0.5 m2 rectangular subplots. One subplot was designated as a rain splash treatment; the other sub-plot was covered with a 2 mm grid size wire screen that was located 12 cm above the soil surface. The purpose of the screen was to break the raindrops into fine droplets and to reduce fall height in order to drastically reduce their kinetic energy. Runoff was measured for each sub-plot. The results show that raindrop impact drastically enhances runoff generation on both bare soils and on manure amended soils. When the impact of raindrops was limited by screening, runoff was higher on amended soils than on bare soils. The temporal evolution of runoff was correctly modelled using a soil hydraulic conductivity that exponentially decreases over time of exposure to rainfall. Both experimental and modelling results showed that droplet energy induces a rapid evolution of the hydraulic properties of the soil surface due to crusting, resulting in a reduction of hydraulic conductivity and a concomitant increase in runoff rate.
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Claude Mügler, Olivier Ribolzi, Jean-Louis Janeau, Emma Rochelle-Newall, Keooudone Latsachack, et al.. Experimental and modelling evidence of short-term effect of raindrop impact on hydraulic conductivity and overland flow intensity. Journal of Hydrology, Elsevier, 2019, 570, pp.401-410. ⟨10.1016/j.jhydrol.2018.12.046⟩. ⟨insu-01982832⟩

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