Gully erosion is a global problem that degrades land and reduces its utility for agriculture, development, and water quality. Quantification of sediment yield and control of sediment sources is essential for environmental protection. Five methods to evaluate erosion rates and sediment yield on an east Tennessee, USA, hillslope were compared: (1) physical measurement by removal of accumulated sediment using 10 L buckets; (2) repeated measurement of erosion pins in gully (erosional) and delta (depositional) areas; (3) geometric model using a combination trapezoidal prism-cylinder segment; (4) geometric model using a series of trapezoidal pyramids; and (5) 3D solid computer modeling. The 3D solid model created in SolidWorks was selected as the reference model and all other methods overestimated sediment yield to varying degrees. Erosion pin methods overestimated sediment yield by 368% in deltas and 123% in gullies. Volumetric measurement of sediment using buckets overestimated sediment yield by 160% due to void space in the buckets. The trapezoidal prism-cylinder segment model overestimated sediment yield by 66% and the trapezoidal pyramids method overestimated sediment yield by 5.7%. For estimation of sediment trapped behind an elliptical or circular silt fence dam, use of the trapezoidal pyramid method provides a good approximation comparable to 3D solid computer modeling.
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