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An experimental study of crust development on chalk downland soils and their impact on runoff and erosion

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 17:07 authored by D A Robinson, J K Woodun
The sealing of soil surfaces by rainfall, the development of soil crusts and their impact on runoff and erosion was investigated in the laboratory by means of simulated rainfall. The soils investigated were stone-free samples of chalk soils from southeast England, and soils with a 25% cover of stones. Vertical change to the surface and immediate subsurface of the soils was assessed through the examination of thin sections scanned into a computer and analysed with image processing software. Changes in roughness and microtopography of the soil surface were measured by use of a laser micromapper. Crusting occurred both in the presence and absence of stones and was inversely related to the organic matter content and aggregate stability of the soils. Crusting of stone-free soils was accompanied by a reduction in roughness of the soil surface, but roughness of the stone-covered surfaces increased as crusting developed. Increases in the particle density of the crust were related to silt content. Organic-rich soil from under permanent grass and from a soil recently brought into arable cultivation crusted less than soils used for arable cultivation for longer periods with lower organic content. The inwashing of silt into the pores of the soil during crusting reduces infiltration, and increases runoff and erosion. In the presence of a 25% cover of surface stones, the reduction in infiltration was 25% less than for stone-free soils and erosion ~50% less.


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  • Published


European Journal of Soil Science







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  • Geography Publications

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