Relationships between runoff and land degradation on non-cultivated land in the Middle Hills of Nepal

RAM Gardner, Anthony Gerrard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

16 Citations (Scopus)


Rainfall-surface water runoff relationships have been examined for 912 rainfall events during the 1992 and 1993 monsoon seasons on 15 erosion plots on a variety of noncultivated land uses in the Middle Hills, Nepal. Vegetation cover and type examined ranged from grassland and relatively undisturbed mixed broadleaf forest to subtropical Sal forest, in various states of degradation, and bare ground. Runoff was frequently generated on most plots and often by relatively small rainfall amounts (less than 5 mm) and low rainfall intensities (3 mm/h). Ground cover and canopy cover were significant factors in determining amounts of runoff. Runoff coefficients ranged from 1-2% under grassland and mixed broadleaf forest to 57-64% on the bare sites. Coefficients for Sal forest were between these two extremes; specific values depended on the level of degradation induced by human activity. The most degraded forest sites experienced runoff coefficients of 33%. Ground cover beneath the trees, especially leaf litter, was more effective in reducing runoff than the amount of canopy cover. Canopy cover was more effective during the less intense storms but was ineffective when the rainfall intensity was high. The results suggest that a minimum ground cover of 60% will keep runoff to within 10% of total rainfall amounts for most normal monsoons in the Middle Hills. This will also reduce the risk of gullying and surface soil erosion. It is the nature of the forest that is important and not its total area. In the study area, although the total area under forest had not changed, some of the forest had become more degraded with a corresponding increase in mean runoff rates. Increased runoff can occur even if the area under forest increases. Estimates of levels of degradation based solely on changing forest areas are likely to be inaccurate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)59-73
Number of pages15
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainable Development and World Ecology
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2002


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