Influence of paddy rice terraces on soil erosion of a small watershed in a hilly area of Northern Vietnam

Mai, V.T.; Keulen, H. van; Hessel, R.; Ritsema, C.J.; Roetter, R.P.; Phien, T.


Soil erosion is the main cause of soil degradation in northern Vietnam. In this study, soil erosion was measured in 2 m2 field plots, a 19.1-ha sub-watershed, and a 248.9-ha main watershed in Tam Quan commune, Tam Duong district, northern Vietnam during 2 years, i.e., 2004–2005. The main watershed includes lowland paddy fields, and is representative for watersheds in the northern Vietnamese landscape. Soil erosion was measured for eight events, at all the three scales to increase our understanding of erosional processes and to assess the effects of paddy fields within the main watershed. The results show that total discharge and sediment yield in both sub-watershed and main watershed were much lower than those in the field plots. Total discharge per unit area in the main watershed was higher than in the sub-watershed, because during the growing season, the paddies are filled with water and any rainfall on them therefore becomes runoff. Sediment yield in the main watershed fluctuated, depending on the soil erosion contribution from many sub-watersheds. Annual rainfalls in 2004 and 2005 were 1,172 and 1,560 mm, respectively, resulting in corresponding total discharges of 54 and 332 mm and total soil losses of 163 and 1,722 kg ha-1 year-1. High runoff volumes occurred in July, August, and September, but April, June, the last 10 days of September and October, were the susceptible periods for soil erosion in the study area because of low plant cover and many agricultural activities during these periods.