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Open AccessArticle

Spatial Variability of Soil Moisture in Newly Implemented Agricultural Bench Terraces in the Ethiopian Plateau

1
Department of Land Resource Management and Environmental Protection, Mekelle University, Mekelle 231, Ethiopia
2
Department of Agriculture, Food, Environment and Forestry (DAGRI), University of Florence, 50145 Florence, Italy
3
Department of Agricultural Engineering (DEA), University Campus, Federal University of Viçosa, Viçosa 36570-900, State of Minas Gerais, Brazil
4
Institute of Water and Environment, Mekelle University, Mekelle 231, Ethiopia
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Water 2019, 11(10), 2134; https://doi.org/10.3390/w11102134
Received: 22 August 2019 / Revised: 5 October 2019 / Accepted: 10 October 2019 / Published: 14 October 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Terraced Landscapes and Hydrological-Geological Hazards)
In arid areas prone to desertification and soil erosion, the effectiveness of radical bench terracing in reducing drought risk is dependent on its correct implementation. However, the relationship between proper terracing implementation and the landscape capacity of holding soil moisture is still not understood. Moreover, spatial patterns of Soil Water Content (SWC) within the same terraced hillslope are weakly studied. The present paper analyses SWC variations in four newly implemented terraced sites in Tigray Region, Ethiopia. In all sites, terraced areas show SWC significantly higher than non-terraced ones, with the lower part of the terraced hillslope more humid than the others. A Multiple Linear Regression (MLR) analysis highlighted significant dependency of SWC from the date of analysis, the position in the terraced slope, and its significant positive correlation with the percent of Water Stable Aggregates (WSA) analyzed at the study sites. Since high soil disturbance induces low soil aggregates stability, this result shows how low soil disturbance can significantly increase SWC of radical terraces. Overall, the results of the present paper testify the good performances of bench terraces in Northern Ethiopia in terms of soil water conservation, and can represent a benchmark study informing future terracing implementation in some arid and semi-arid agricultural areas of the world. View Full-Text
Keywords: drought risk; dry stone walls; terracing; terracing implementation; soil water content; land degradation; arid areas; Tigray; Ethiopia drought risk; dry stone walls; terracing; terracing implementation; soil water content; land degradation; arid areas; Tigray; Ethiopia
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Mesfin, S.; Almeida Oliveira, L.A.; Yazew, E.; Bresci, E.; Castelli, G. Spatial Variability of Soil Moisture in Newly Implemented Agricultural Bench Terraces in the Ethiopian Plateau. Water 2019, 11, 2134.

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