Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Science



First Advisor

Williard, Karl


Field scale research shows concentrated flow paths (CFPs) are prevalent in agricultural watersheds. They are an important source of soil erosion in cropland and significantly contribute to the transport and delivery of agricultural pollutants such as sediment and nutrients to nearby water resources. High resolution LiDAR data have enabled the investigation of the prevalence of concentrated flow at a large geographic extent. This study focused on identifying CFPs in 389 agricultural fields in Jackson County in southern Illinois and estimating the contribution of the CFPs to drainage of the fields. Addressing the lack of literature on factors influencing CFP characteristics, this study also investigates various topographical and soil factors that influence CFP development. LiDAR derived DEMs with a cell resolution of 3 meters were used to identify areas of flow concentration and delineate a drainage basin of each CFP using the Hydrology tools in the Spatial Analyst toolbox in ArcMap 10.3.1. Information on the topographical and soil characteristics were obtained from the DEMs and SSURGO database using the Soil Data Viewer 6.2 extension for ArcMap. Multiple regression analysis in SAS v. 9.4 was used to identify factors influencing CFP characteristics, while CART analysis in R v. 3.3.1 was conducted to detect linear dependencies among predictor variables. An average of 5 CFPs per agricultural field were observed in the study area with a minimum of 0 and maximum of 17 CFPs, but only two fields had no CFPs indicating a high prevalence of CFPs throughout the study area. The mean percent of field area drained by CFPs was estimated to be 81 percent with minimum of 36 percent and ii maximum of 100 percent. The majority of the fields, 85 percent, had more than 70 percent of their area drained by CFPs. Statistically significant regression equations were found for all CFP characteristics with slope, LS factor, K factor and organic matter as the factors influencing CFP characteristics. However, the factors only explained 2 to 22 percent of variation observed. Both multiple regression and CART analysis indicated slope as the most important influencing factor. Variation in CFP characteristics followed regional trends with higher values in the floodplain region and lower values in the rough hills region suggesting residual variation could be explained by other environmental factors along with topographical and climatological factors which were not included in the study. Results from this study highlight the prevalence of CFPs at a regional scale and their substantial contribution to field drainage identifying a need for research in quantifying the impacts of CFP on soil loss and water quality. This study also reports a need of future research to identify important factors controlling CFP formation and development that could help build empirical and physical models to accurately predict CFP locations and morphology. Such information could be useful in designing and targeting conservation practices that protect both soil health and water quality.




This thesis is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.