University of Oulu

Palliyaguru C, Basnayake V, Makumbura RK, Gunathilake MB, Muttil N, Wimalasiri EM, Rathnayake U. Evaluation of the Impact of Land Use Changes on Soil Erosion in the Tropical Maha Oya River Basin, Sri Lanka. Land. 2023; 12(1):107.

Evaluation of the impact of land use changes on soil erosion in the tropical Maha Oya River Basin, Sri Lanka

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Author: Palliyaguru, Chathura1; Basnayake, Vindhya1; Makumbura, Randika K.1;
Organizations: 1Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering, Sri Lanka Institute of Information Technology, Malabe 10115, Sri Lanka
2Hydrology and Aquatic Environment, Division of Environment and Natural Resources, Norwegian Institute of Bioeconomy and Research, 1433 Ås, Norway
3Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, Faculty of Technology, University of Oulu, 90014 Oulu, Finland
4Institute for Sustainable Industries & Livable Cities, Victoria University, P.O. Box 14428, Melbourne, VIC 8001, Australia
5College of Engineering and Science, Victoria University, P.O. Box 14428, Melbourne, VIC 8001, Australia
6Department of Export Agriculture, Faculty of Agricultural Sciences, Sabaragamuwa University of Sri Lanka, Belihuloya 70140, Sri Lanka
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 13.4 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2022
Publish Date: 2023-09-11


Soil degradation is a serious environmental issue in many regions of the world, and Sri Lanka is not an exception. Maha Oya River Basin (MORB) is one of the major river basins in tropical Sri Lanka, which suffers from regular soil erosion and degradation. The current study was designed to estimate the soil erosion associated with land use changes of the MORB. The Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was used in calculating the annual soil erosion rates, while the Geographic Information System (GIS) was used in mapping the spatial variations of the soil erosion hazard over a 30-year period. Thereafter, soil erosion hotspots in the MORB were also identified. The results of this study revealed that the mean average soil loss from the MORB has substantially increased from 2.81 t ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ in 1989 to 3.21 t ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹ in 2021, which is an increment of about 14.23%. An extremely critical soil erosion-prone locations (average annual soil loss > 60 t ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) map of the MORB was developed for the year 2021. The severity classes revealed that approximately 4.61% and 6.11% of the study area were in high to extremely high erosion hazard classes in 1989 and 2021, respectively. Based on the results, it was found that the extreme soil erosion occurs when forests and vegetation land are converted into agricultural and bare land/farmland. The spatial analysis further reveals that erosion-prone soil types, steep slope areas, and reduced forest/vegetation cover in hilly mountain areas contributed to the high soil erosion risk (16.56 to 91.01 t ha⁻¹ yr⁻¹) of the MORB. These high soil erosional areas should be prioritized according to the severity classes, and appropriate land use/land cover (LU/LC) management and water conservation practices should be implemented as recommended by this study to restore degraded lands.

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Series: Land
ISSN: 2073-445X
ISSN-E: 2073-445X
ISSN-L: 2073-445X
Volume: 12
Issue: 1
Article number: 107
DOI: 10.3390/land12010107
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 1172 Environmental sciences
1181 Ecology, evolutionary biology
519 Social and economic geography
Copyright information: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (