A GIS-based approach to site vegetated buffer strips for erosion control within an agricultural catchment in southern England

Cat Hudson*, Harold Lovell, Alastair Pearson, Martin Schaefer, Philip Soar

*Corresponding author for this work

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Agricultural soil erosion is largely attributed to arable intensification and increased mechanisation. Runoff from arable land and intensively managed grassland transports sediment and contaminants across the landscape and into watercourses, causing crop loss, land degradation and water quality issues. One low-cost and low-maintenance nature-based mitigation approach is the implementation of vegetated buffer strips (VBS): grassland sited along field margins to trap sediment and contaminants, reducing transportation and diffuse pollution rates. GIS modelling using remotely sensed landscape indices and land parcel data can provide an efficient means of identifying priority areas for intervention at sub-catchment or farm system scales. We develop and test a scalable runoff risk model in the lower Rother catchment, West Sussex. The model uses the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) applied to satellite images as an erodibility proxy and identifies locations along pathways that are conceivably at greatest risk of sediment accumulation and transfer, guided by field observations. We assess current and historical field boundaries near high-risk locations, evaluating the potential capacity of their margins to contribute to runoff risk reduction using an innovative ranking system. Recommendations are made for VBS implementation and the value of historical field boundary and margin restoration is discussed. Our method offers a rapid approach with minimal data requirements to identify high-risk sediment runoff locations and priority sites for intervention. The tool has the potential to guide decision-makers responsible for targeting and implementing soil erosion and runoff control measures such as VBS, while also maximising agri-environmental and cultural benefits.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere15165
Number of pages17
JournalHydrological Processes
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 12 May 2024


  • erodibility
  • ield boundaries
  • field margin restoration
  • GIS modelling
  • runoff risk
  • sediment accumulation
  • soil erosion
  • vegetated buffer strips

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