Earth surface processes and landforms vol:27 issue:12 pages:1267-1283
Although obvious in the field, the impact of road building on hydrology and gullying in Ethiopia has rarely been analysed. This study investigates how road building in the Ethiopian Highlands affects the gully erosion risk. The road between Makalle and Adwa in the highlands of Tigray (northern Ethiopia), built in 1993-1994, caused gullying at most of the culverts and other road drains. While damage by runoff to the road itself remains limited, off-site effects are very important. Since the building of the road, nine new gullies were created immediately downslope of the studied road segment (6-5 km long) and seven other gullies at a distance between 100 and 500 m more downslope. The road induces a concentration of surface runoff, a diversion of concentrated runoff to other catchments, and an increase in catchment size, which are the main causes for gully development after road building. Topographic thresholds for gully formation are determined in terms of slope gradient of the soil surface at the gully head and catchment area. The influence of road building on both the variation of these thresholds and the modification of the drainage pattern is analysed. The slope gradient of the soil surface at the gully heads which were induced by the road varies between 0.06 and 0.42 m m(-1) (average 0.15 m m(-1)), whereas gully heads without influence of the road have slope gradients between 0.09 and 0.52 m m(-1) (average 0.25 m m(-1)). Road building disturbed the equilibrium in the study area but the lowering of topographic threshold values for gullying is not statistically significant. Increased gully erosion after road building has caused the loss of fertile soil and crop yield, a decrease of land holding size, and the creation of obstacles for tillage operations. Hence roads should be designed in a way that keeps runoff interception, concentration and deviation minimal. Techniques must be used to spread concentrated runoff in space and time and to increase its infiltration instead of directing it straight onto unprotected slopes. Copyright (C) 2002 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.