Runoff and sediment losses from 27 upland catchments in Southeast Asia: Impact of rapid land use changes and conservation practices - Bioemco Access content directly
Journal Articles Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment Year : 2008

Runoff and sediment losses from 27 upland catchments in Southeast Asia: Impact of rapid land use changes and conservation practices


Rapid changes in upland farming systems in Southeast Asia generated predominantly by increased population pressure and 'market forces' have resulted in widespread land degradation that has been well documented at the plot scale. Yet, the links between agricultural activities in the uplands and downstream off-site effects remain largely unknown because of the difficulties in transferring results from plots to a larger scale. Many authors have thus pointed out the need for long-term catchment studies. The objective of this paper is to summarize the results obtained by the Management of Soil Erosion Consortium (MSEC) over the last 5 years from 27 catchments in five countries (Indonesia, Laos, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam). The purpose of the study was to assess the impacts of cultivation practices on annual runoff and erosion rates. Initial surveys in each catchment included topography, soils and land use. Monitoring included climatic, hydrologic and erosion (total sediment yield including bed load and suspended sediment load) data, land use and crop yields, and farmers' income. In addition, new land management options were introduced through consultations with farmers and evaluated in terms of runoff and erosion. These included tree plantations, fruit trees, improved fallow with legumes, maize intercropped with legumes, planted fodder, native grass strips and agro-ecological practices (direct sowing and mulch-based conservation agriculture). Regressions analyses showed that runoff during the rainy season, and normalized runoff flow coefficient based on erosive rainfall during the rainy season (rainfall with intensity exceeding 25 mm h(-1)) increase with the percentage of the catchment covered by maize. Both variables decrease with increasing soil depth, standard deviation of catchment slope (that reflects terrain roughness), and the percentages of the catchment covered by fallow (regular and improved), tree plantations and planted fodder. The best predictors of sediment yield were the surface percentages of maize, Job's tears, cassava and footpaths. The main conclusions generated from this study were: (i) soil erosion is predominantly influenced by land use rather than environmental characteristics not only at the plot scale but also at the catchment scale; (ii) slash-and-burn shifting cultivation with sufficiently long rotations (I year of cultivation, 8 years of fallow) is too often unjustly blamed for degradation; (iii) in its place, continuous cropping of maize and cassava promotes high rates of soil erosion at the catchment scale; (iv) conservation technologies are efficient in reducing runoff and total sediment yield at the catchment scale; (v) the adoption of improved soil management technologies by upland farmers is not a function of the degree of intensification of their farming system and/or of their incomes. The results suggest that if expansion of maize and cassava into already degraded upland systems were to occur due to increased demand for biofuels, there is a risk of higher runoff and sediment generation. A failure to adopt appropriate land use management strategies will result in further rapid resource degradation with negative impacts to downstream communities.


Soil study

Dates and versions

bioemco-00395588 , version 1 (15-06-2009)



Christian Valentin, F. Agus, R. Alamban, A. Boosaner, Jean-Pierre Bricquet, et al.. Runoff and sediment losses from 27 upland catchments in Southeast Asia: Impact of rapid land use changes and conservation practices. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 2008, 128 (4), pp.225-238. ⟨10.1016/j.agee.2008.06.004⟩. ⟨bioemco-00395588⟩
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