A high-resolution map of direct and indirect connectivity of erosion risk areas to surface waters in Switzerland: A risk assessment tool for planning and policy-making

Alder, Simon; Prasuhn, Volker; Liniger, Hanspeter; Herweg, Karl Günter; Hurni, Hans; Candinas, Anton; Gujer, Hans Ulrich (2015). A high-resolution map of direct and indirect connectivity of erosion risk areas to surface waters in Switzerland: A risk assessment tool for planning and policy-making. Land use policy, 48, pp. 236-249. Elsevier Science 10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.06.001

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Off-site effects of soil erosion are becoming increasingly important, particularly the pollution of surface waters. In order to develop environmentally efficient and cost effective mitigation options it is essential to identify areas that bear both a high erosion risk and high connectivity to surface waters. This paper introduces a simple risk assessment tool that allows the delineation of potential critical source areas (CSA) of sediment input into surface waters concerning the agricultural areas of Switzerland. The basis are the erosion risk map with a 2 m resolution (ERM2) and the drainage network, which is extended by drained roads, farm tracks, and slope depressions. The probability of hydrological and sedimentological connectivity is assessed by combining soil erosion risk and extended drainage network with flow distance calculation. A GIS-environment with multiple-flow accumulation algorithms is used for routing runoff generation and flow pathways. The result is a high resolution connectivity map of the agricultural area of Switzerland (888,050 ha). Fifty-five percent of the computed agricultural area is potentially connected with surface waters, 45% is not connected. Surprisingly, the larger part of 34% (62% of the connected area) is indirectly connected with surface waters through drained roads, and only 21% are directly connected. The reason is the topographic complexity and patchiness of the landscape due to a dense road and drainage network. A total of 24% of the connected area and 13% of the computed agricultural area, respectively, are rated with a high connectivity probability. On these CSA an adapted land use is recommended, supported by vegetated buffer strips preventing sediment load. Even areas that are far away from open water bodies can be indirectly connected and need to be included in planning of mitigation measures. Thus, the connectivity map presented is an important decision-making tool for policy-makers and extension services. The map is published on the web and thus available for application.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Liniger, Hanspeter; Herweg, Karl Günter and Hurni, Hans


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics




Elsevier Science




Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

18 Jun 2015 14:43

Last Modified:

24 Mar 2017 15:24

Publisher DOI:






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