Abstract

Results of accelerated erosion on certain constructed surfaces in southeastern Arizona appear similar to those described by Bryan (1940) as gully gravure. Twenty cross-section excavations in eight rills incised into silt-rich lacustrine and fluvial deposits reveal partial filling of the rills by debris derived from overlying fluvial sand, gravel, and cobbles. Interstices of the coarse material gradually fill with fine-grained erosion products, decreasing permeability of the fill and deflecting subsequent runoff to the margins of the fill. Rills and rill fillings thus increase in width with time, and complete veneering of the surface by coarse debris ultimately may occur. Through incision, filling, lateral planation, and armoring, channels of the dissected surface heal and the new hillslope approaches an equilibrium condition.

Natural hillslopes in the area with similar geologic conditions have inclinations of 16°-22°, have generally unbroken veneers of coarse debris, and appear subject to the same erosional processes identified at constructed hillslopes. Field measurements and the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE) were used to estimate soil loss on natural and constructed hillslopes. Results suggest that erosion may be almost three orders of magnitude greater on steep, non-veneered, nonvegetated constructed surfaces than on natural hillslopes. Attributes of stable natural hillslopes provide criteria for the design of stable constructed hillslopes.

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