SEPAL – a simple GIS-based tool to estimate sediment pathways in lowland catchments
- Department of Hydrology and Water Resources Management, Ecology Centre, Christian-Albrechts-University Kiel, Germany
Abstract. Even though soil loss in the lowlands imposes not as much a restriction on land use and agricultural productivity as in erosion affected mountainous areas, the input of fine sediment into the rivers and streams is a concern due to water quality issues and substrate siltation. Drains, river banks and agricultural fields are the three main sources of fine sediment in lowland regions. For a successful implementation of measures to decrease sediment input a well-founded knowledge of the individual entry pathways is essential. To assess the importance of possible entry pathways, a GIS based methodology (SEPAL) has been established combining the ABAG, a river bank erosion formula and a regression approach to include the contributions of drains. SEPAL has been applied on a study catchment in Northern Germany. The results show that 15% of the sediment input into the river comes from agricultural drains, 71% from river banks and 14% from adjacent fields. A comparison of the results with field-mapping and -sampling shows that the approach is plausible. The calculated total annual sediment input is 616 t yr−1, while the measured suspended sediment load is 636 t yr−1. It can be concluded that the methodology is suitable for estimating sediment entry pathways and annual sediment loads in lowland catchments as a base for modelling projects and further investigations. However, further work is necessary for gaining sound knowledge about uncertainties and especially about the processes forcing sediment input from drains.