A study was undertaken to develop an appropriate plan of land use under suitable slope gradient to control soil erosion from a red soil hilly watershed of southern China by using the GeoWEPP (Geo-spatial Interface for the Water Erosion Prediction Project)
model. The model was calibrated and validated using monitoring data of the outlet from 2010 to 2012, in which the 2010 and 2012 annual total runoff and sediment yield data were used for calibration, and the 2011 monthly runoff and sediment yield data for validation. The performance of the model in validation period were good with a high coefficient of determination values of 0.98 and 0.93 and Nash-Sutcliffe simulations of 0.96 and 0.91 while low root mean square error values of 6.91 mm and 0.35 t respectively for runoff and sediment yield. Subsequently, the model was used to simulate four typical land use (forest, farm, orchard, and fallow land) in the study area to evaluate their impacts on soil erosion production. The results showed that the runoff decreased by 44.7% and 61.1% for forest and orchard land compared to the current land use, as well as the sediment yield decreased by 43.7% and 68.6%. While the runoff and sediment yield increased by 52.2% and 42.6% for farm land, and 48.8% and 29.6% for fallow land. As the same time, soil erosion increased with increasing of the slope gradient of the quadratic regression equation for all land use. The critical slope gradient of 15° for returning the farmland to forest or others is suitable in the red soil region but is not accurate. The result of the study provides good scientific evidence for developing an appropriate plan of land use in the watershed and other similar areas.
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