Title: Adapting SWAT hillslope erosion model to predict sediment concentrations and yields in large basins
Citation: SCIENCE OF THE TOTAL ENVIRONMENT vol. 538 p. 855-875
Publication Year: 2015
JRC N°: JRC94160
ISSN: 0048-9697
URI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.08.095
DOI: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.08.095
Type: Articles in periodicals and books
Abstract: The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) is used worldwide for water quality assessment and planning. This paper aimed to assess and adapt SWAT hillslope sediment yield model (Modified Universal Soil Loss Equation, MUSLE) for applications in large basins, i.e. when spatial data is coarse and model units are large; and to develop a robust sediment calibration method for large regions. The Upper Danube Basin (132000 km2) was used as case study representative of large European Basins. The MUSLE was modified to reduce sensitivity of sediment yields to the Hydrologic Response Unit (HRU) size, and to identify appropriate algorithms for estimating hillslope length (L) and slope-length factor (LS). HRUs gross erosion was broadly calibrated against plot data and soil erosion map estimates. Next, mean annual SWAT suspended sediment concentrations (SSC, mg/L) were calibrated and validated against SSC data at 55 gauging stations (622 station-years). SWAT annual specific sediment yields in subbasin reaches (RSSY, t/km2/y) were compared to yields measured at 33 gauging stations (87 station-years). The best SWAT configuration combined a MUSLE equation modified by the introduction of a threshold area of 0.01 km2 where L and LS were estimated with flow accumulation algorithms. For this configuration, the SSC residual interquartile was less than +/- 15 mg/L both for the calibration (1995-2004) and the validation (2005-2009) periods. The mean SSC percent bias for 1995-2009 was 24%. RSSY residual interquartile was within +/- 10 t/km2/y, with a mean RSSY percent bias of 12%. Residuals showed no bias with respect to drainage area, slope, or spatial distribution. The use of multiple data types at multiple sites enabled robust simulation of sediment concentrations and yields of the region. The MUSLE modifications are recommended for use in large basins. Based on SWAT simulations, we present a sediment budget for the Upper Danube Basin.
JRC Directorate:Sustainable Resources

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