Evaluation of soil loss tolerance via soil productivity and quality at a watershed scale: Haji-Ghushan watershed, Golestan province

Document Type : Research Paper


1 university of tehran

2 University of Tehran

3 Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute

4 Agricultural researches Institute of Golestan


Erosion is known as one of the important factors in the degradation of soil resources and non-point pollutions. A wide range of damaging effects including social, economic and environmental problems occur when soil erosion rate goes beyond the allowable value. There are several methods to determine soil  erosion tolerance and each one has specific advantages and limitations. In this paper, two widely used methods were compared to determine the tolerable erosion in a watershed scale. The first approach is based on the assessment of the Productivity Index (PI) and the second approach is based on soil depth and soil quality index. A particular minimum data set of soil properties including infiltration, water capacity, organic carbon, aggregate stability, bulk density, and fertility status (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium) were used to calculate the criteria. The results showed that the calculated tolerable erosion by the two methods were closely related. The average tolerable soil erosion for the study area was determined 9.2 and 10.2 ton/ha/year based on soil productivity method and soil depth-quality approach, respectively. The PI-based approach is preferred over the soil depth-quality approach for two reasons: First, the PI-based approach is a depth-wise and chemo-physical properties of topsoil are compared with subsoil layers. Second, the soil depth-quality based approach is a general guide that cannot take the differences between soils into account in details. As both models just take the onsite effects of erosion into account, these values can be used for managers and decision-makers of soil conservation regardless off offsite impacts.


Main Subjects

Bazzoffi, B. (2009). Soil erosion tolerance and water runoff control: minimum environmental standards. Reg Environ Change 9:169–179.
Bhattacharyya, P., Mandal, D., Bhatt, V. K., Yadav, R. P. (2011). A Quantitative Methodology for Estimating Soil Loss Tolerance Limits for Three States of Northern India. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture, 35:3, 276-292.
Bui, E. N., Hancock, G. J. &Wilkinson, S. N. (2011). ‘Tolerable’ hillslope soil erosion rates in Australia: Linking science and policy. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 144, 136-149.
Burrough, P.A., MacMillan, R.A., Deursen van, W. (1992). Fuzzy classification methods for determining land suitability from soil profile observations and topography. Journal of Soil Science 43 (2), 193–210.
Delgado, F. (2003). Soil physical properties on Venezuelan steeplands: Applications to conservation planning. The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics. College on Soil Physics.
Doran, J.W., Parkin, T.B. (1994). Defining and assessing soil quality. In: Doran, J.W., et al. (Ed.), Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment. Soil Science Society of America Special Publication, vol. 35. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, 3–21.
Duan, X., Xie, Y., Liu, B., Liu, G., Feng, Y. and GAO, X. (2012). Soil loss tolerance in the black soil region of Northeast China. J. Geogr. Sci 22(4): 737-751.
Duan, X., Xie, Y., Ou, T., Lu, H. (2011). Effects of soil erosion on long-term soil productivity in the black soil region of northeastern China. Catena 87: 268–275.
Duan, X.W., Xie, Y., Feng, Y.J., Yin, S.Q. (2009). Study on the method of soil productivity assessment in black soil region of Northeast China. Agric. Sci. China 8 (4), 472–481.
Eswaran, H.; Lal, R.; Reich, P.F. (1999) Land Degradation: An overview. In Response to Land Degradation, Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on Land Degradation and Desertification, Khon Kaen, Thailand, 25–29 January; Bridges, E.M., Hannam, I.D., Oldeman, L.R., Pening de Vries, F.W.T., Scherr, S.J., Sompatpanit, S., Eds.; Oxford University Press: New Delhi, India, 2002.
John, R. N. and Kim, S. P. (2002). Aggregate stability and size distribution. In: H.D. Jacob and G. Clarke Topp, Co-editor (Ed.). pp. 201-414. Methods of Soil Analysis. Part 4. Physical Methods. Soil Sci. Soc. A., Madison, WI. , USA.
Johnson, L.C. (2005). Soil loss tolerance: fact or myth. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 60 (3), 52-60.
Karlen, D.L., Parkin, T.B., Eash, N.S. (1996). Use of soil quality indicators to evaluate conservation reserve program sites in Iowa. In: Doran, J.W., Jones, A.J. (Eds.), Methods for assessing soil quality. Soil Science Society of America Special Publication, vol. 49. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, pp. 345–356.
Karlen, D.L., Stott, D.E. (1994) A frame work for evaluating physical and chemical indicators of soil quality. In: Doran, J.W., et al. (Ed.), Defining soil quality for a sustainable environment. Soil Science Society of America Special Publication, vol. 35. Soil Science Society of America, Madison, Wisconsin, pp. 53–72.
Lakaria, B.L., Mandal, D., and Biswas, H. (2010). Permissible soil erosion limits under different landscapes of Chhattisgarh, Indian J. Soil Cons., 38, 148–154.
Lal, R. (1998). Soil erosion impact on agronomic productivity and environment quality. Critical Review Plant Sci., 4, 319-464.
Lal, R. (2001). Soil degradation by erosion. Land Degradation & Development. 12: 519-539.
Li, L., Du, S., Wu, L., and Liu, G. (2009). An overview of soil loss tolerance. Catena 78 (2009) 93–99.
Lobo, D., Lozano, Z., and Delgado, F., (2005). Water erosion risk assessment and impact on productivity of a Venezuela soil. Catena 64 (2–3), 297–306.
Mandal, D., and Sharda, V. N., and Tripathi K. P. (2011). Assessment of permissible soil loss in India employing a quantitative bio-physical model. Current Science. 100 (3): 383-390.
Mandal, D., Sharda, V. N., and Tripathi K. P. (2010).  Relative efficacy of two biophysical approaches to assess soil loss tolerance for doon valley soils of india.  Journal of soil and water conservation. 65 (1): 42-49.
McBratney, D.E., Odeh, I.O.A. (1997). Application of fuzzy sets in soil science; Fuzzy logic, fuzzy measurements and fuzzy decision. Geoderma 11, 85–113.
Nearing, M.A., Deer-Ascough, L., Laflen, J.M. (1990). Sensitivity analysis of the WEPP hillslope profile erosion model. Transaction of ASAE 33, 839–849.
Pimentel, D., Burgess, M. (2013). Soil Erosion Threatens Food Production. Agriculture, 3, 443-463.
Verheijen, F.G.A., Jones, R.J.A., Rickson, R.J., Smith, C.J. (2009). Tolerable versus actual soil erosion rates in Europe. Earth Science Reviews 94, 23–38.
Wischmeier, W. H., Smith, D. D. (1978). Predicting rainfall erosion losses: A guide to conservation planning. USA: United States Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook. No.537, Washington, D.C.
Zhang, K., Li, S., Peng, W., Yu, B. (2004). Erodibility of Agricultural soils on the Loess Plateau of China. Soil Till. Res. 76, 157–165.
Duan, X., Shi, X., Li, Y., Rong, L., and Fen, D. (2017). A new method to calculate soil loss tolerance for sustainable soil productivity in farmland. Agron. Sustain. Dev. 37 (2).
Alexander, E.B., 1988. Rates of soil formation implications for soil loss tolerance. Soil Sci. 145 (1), 37–45.
Renschler, C.S., Harbor, J. (2002). Soil erosion assessment tools from point to regional scale: The role of geomorphologists in land management research and implementation. Geomorphology 47, 189–209.
Paschall, A. H., Klingebiel, A. A, Allaway, W. H. (1956). Committee report: permissible soil loss and relative erodibility of different soils. Agr. Res. Serv. and Soil Cons. Serv., Washington DC.
Sparovek, G., Schnug, E. (2001). Temporal erosion-induced soil degradation and yield loss. Soil Sci Soc Am J 65(5):1479–1486.
Benson, V.W., Rice, O.W., Dyke, P.T., Williams, JR, Jones, C.A. (1989) Conservation impacts on crop productivity for the life of a soil. J Soil Water Conserv 44(6):600–604.
Khormali, F., Ajami, M., Ayoubi, S., Srinivasarao, C., Wani, S.P., (2009). Role of defor- estation and hillslope position on soil quality attributes of loess-derived soils in Golestan province. Iran. Agric. Ecosyst. Environ. 134, 178–189.
Page, A.L., Miller, R.H., Jeeney, D.R., (1992). Methods of Soil Analysis, Part 2. Chemical and Mineralogical Properties. SSSA Pub, Madison, 1159 p.
Romano, N., and Santini, A. (2002). Water retention and storage: Field. In: J.H. Dane and G.C. Topp, editors, Methods of soil analysis: Part 4. Physical methods. SSSA Book Ser. 5. SSSA, Madison, WI. p. 721–738.
Bouwer, H. (1986) Intake rate: cylinder infiltrometer. In: Klute, A. (Ed.), Methods of Soil Analysis. Part I: Physical Analysis. SSSA, Madison, WI, pp. 825–844.