Ephemeral Gully Erosion

Frans J.P.M. Kwaad,
physical geographer


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See also: 
Pictures of soil erosion
Soil erosion control in Europe
Economic costs of soil erosion

In this website a series of photo's of ephemeral gullies is shown from South Limbourg, the Netherlands, an area with an undulating topography and loess soils.

Ephemeral gullies are a form of soil erosion. The gullies are very much wider than deep. They are formed during heavy rainfall, mostly on fallow arable land. They tend not to go deeper than the tilled layer. They are removed by normal tillage. Hence, the name ephemeral gullies (= short lived, temporary, transient, transitory). For a detailed discussion of ephemeral gullies and the difference with other forms of soil erosion (rill erosion, classical gully erosion) see Foster (1986) Understanding ephemeral gully erosion.



Ephemeral gully erosion 01

Ephemeral gully head viewed in a downslope direction.



Ephemeral gully erosion 02

View upslope of an ephemeral gully.



Ephemeral gully erosion 03





Ephemeral gully erosion 04

Uprooting of crop (sugarbeets) by an ephemeral gully.




Ephemeral gully erosion 05

Uprooting of crop (sugarbeets)




Ephemeral gully erosion 12

This and the next eight pictures are of an event of 55 mm of rain in 2 hours incl. 30 mm in 30 minutes. The aerial photographs of the event were taken by D. Koeman. The location is the Ransdalerveld, South Limbourg, The Netherlands. The width of the road (Vrakelbergerweg) alongside the gully is appr. 4 m. Notice that a cropped field was not eroded by the gully, showing that a crop can protect the soil.



Ephemeral gully erosion 08

The ephemeral gully follows the course of a dry valley bottom along de Vrakelbergerweg.




Ephemeral gully erosion 09

The ephemeral gully has removed the plough layer of a recently ploughed field.




Ephemeral gully erosion 10

Very shallow ephemeral gully, same location as above.





Ephemeral gully erosion 07

Notice the dark narrow strip from left to right in the middle of the photo were the farmer has just begun to plough a field, removing the gully in doing so. The cropped field in the lower left hand corner was eroded by the gully. This was not everywhere the case during this event. See the upper part of the photo and the aerial photo's above and below. The direction of the tillage furrows was perpendicular to the gully.



Ephemeral gully erosion 13

The water flow has crossed two cropped fields without disturbing the crop.




Ephemeral gully erosion 11

The water flow has crossed a cropped field without eroding the soil and the crop, showing that a crop can protect the soil. It is surprising to see that there are hardly any signs of mud deposition in the field.



Ephemeral gully

Same event and general area as the pictures above. The colluvial fan in the bend of the road is shown in the next photo.



Ephemeral gully erosion 06

Ephemeral gully crossing a corn (maize) field ending in a colluvial fan at a road side (see photo above).




Ephemeral gully erosion 14

This slide and the following slides show ephemeral gullies from another event than the one above (South Limbourg, The Netherlands). The soil contains rounded gravel from the river Meuse (a so called river terrace deposit).




Ephemeral gully erosion 15

Same site as above.




Ephemeral gully erosion 16

Same site as above.



Ephemeral gully erosion 21

  Photo showing the left part of the bare field of the picture above. 



Ephemeral gully erosion 20

Same field as above.




Ephemeral gully erosion 17

  Same field as above.




Ephemeral gully erosion 18

Barely discernable incipient ephemeral gullies coming from above crossing a cropped field




Ephemeral gully erosion 22

Incipient ephemeral gullies and flowpaths crossing the ridges between tillage furrows.




Ephemeral gully erosion 23

Deposit left by an ephemeral gully.



Ephemeral gully erosion 05

Deposit left by an ephemeral gully.



Ephemeral gully erosion 24

Deposit left by an ephemeral gully.




Ephemeral gully erosion 19

Deposit left by an ephemeral gully. Mud is removed from the road.


The copyright of the photographs on this website is owned by F.J.P.M. Kwaad.