Empirical prediction equations of the form W = aQb have been reported for rills and rivers, but not for ephemeral gullies. In this study six experimental data sets are used to establish a relationship between channel width (W, m) and flow discharge (Q, m3 s−1) for ephemeral gullies formed on cropland. The resulting regression equation (W = 2·51 Q0·412; R2 = 0·72; n = 67) predicts observed channel width reasonably well. Owing to logistic limitations related to the respective experimental set ups, only relatively small runoff discharges (i.e. Q < 0·02 m3s−1) were covered. Using field data, where measured ephemeral gully channel width was attributed to a calculated peak runoff discharge on sealed cropland, the application field of the regression equation was extended towards larger discharges (i.e. 5 × 10−4m3s−1 < Q < 0·1 m3s−1). Comparing W–Q relationships for concentrated flow channels revealed that the discharge exponent (b) varies from 0·3 for rills over 0·4 for gullies to 0·5 for rivers. This shift in b may be the result of: (i) differences in flow shear stress distribution over the wetted perimeter between rills, gullies and rivers, (ii) a decrease in probability of a channel formed in soil material with uniform erosion resistance from rills over gullies to rivers and (iii) a decrease in average surface slope from rills over gullies to rivers. The proposed W–Q equation for ephemeral gullies is valid for (sealed) cropland with no significant change in erosion resistance with depth. Two examples illustrate limitations of the W–Q approach. In a first example, vertical erosion is hindered by a frozen subsoil. The second example relates to a typical summer situation where the soil moisture profile of an agricultural field makes the top 0·02 m five times more erodible than the underlying soil material. For both cases observed W values are larger than those predicted by the established channel width equation for concentrated flow on cropland. For the frozen soils the equation W = 3·17 Q0·368 (R2 = 0·78; n = 617) was established, but for the summer soils no equation could be established. Copyright © 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Hydrological Processes – Wiley
Published: Jul 1, 2002
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