Spatio-temporal changes in rate of soil loss and erosion vulnerability of selected region in the tropical forests of Borneo during last three decades
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© 2017 Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany An attempt has been made to analyze the spatial-temporal characteristics of soil erosion vulnerability and soil loss from the forested region in the north-eastern Borneo, Sarawak, Malaysia during the last three decades (1991–2015) using the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) and geographical information systems (GIS). The components of RUSLE such as rainfall erosivity (R), soil erodibility (K), slope-length and steepness (LS), cover management (C) and conservation practice (P) factors were grouped into two categories by keeping one set as temporally changing and others as static. Among them the R and C factors are calculated for the years 1991, 2001 and 2015 whereas the K and LS factors are considered for the single time frame. Because of the forested nature of the study area, the P factor is kept constant for the whole analysis. The R factor and C factor is shown changes in values and its distribution over the years, which reflected in the final soil loss and erosion vulnerability map as a change in the rate of erosion and spatial domain. The analysis of three time slices has shown that the maximum value of the soil loss per unit area i.e. at erosion hotspots, is relatively similar throughout at around 1636 to 1744 t/ha/y. This is the result of maximum values of R factor and C factor i.e. high rainfall erosivity combined with lack of vegetation cover in those hotspots, which are generally steeply sloping terrain. The reclassification of annual soil loss map into erosion vulnerability zones indicated a major increase in the spatial spread of erosion vulnerability from the year 1991 to 2015 with a significant increase in the high and critical erosion areas from 2.3% (1991) to 31.5% (2015). In 1991, over 84% of the study area was under low erosion vulnerability class but by the year 2015 only 12% was under low erosion vulnerability class. Moreover, a dynamic nature in the erosion pattern was found from the year 1991 to 2015 with more linear areas of land associated with higher rate of soil loss and enhanced erosion vulnerability. The linearity in the spatial pattern is correlated with the development of logging roads and logging activities which has been confirmed by the extraction of exposed areas from satellite images of different years of analysis. The findings of the present study has quantified the changes in vegetation cover from dense, thick tropical forest to open mixed type landscapes which provide less protection against erosion and soil loss during the severe rainfall events which are characteristic of this tropical region.
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