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Forestry Sciences Laboratory - Moscow, Idaho
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Engineering Publications


Project Leader:
William J. Elliot
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Adapting the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model for forest applications

Dun, S.; Wu, J.Q.; Elliot, W.J.; Robichaud, P.R.; Flanagan, D.C.; Frankenberger, J.R.; Brown, R.E.; Xu, A.D. 2009. Adapting the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) model for forest applications. Journal of Hydrology 336(1-4):45-54.

Keywords: Forest watershed; Surface runoff; Subsurface lateral flow; Soil erosion; Hydrologic modeling; WEPP

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Abstract: There has been an increasing public concern over forest stream pollution by excessive sedimentation due to natural or human disturbances. Adequate erosion simulation tools are needed for sound management of forest resources. The Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) watershed model has proved useful in forest applications where Hortonian flow is the major form of runoff, such as modeling erosion from roads, harvested units, and burned areas by wildfire or prescribed fire. Nevertheless, when used for modeling water flow and sediment discharge from natural forest watersheds where subsurface flow is dominant, WEPP (v2004.7) underestimates these quantities, in particular, the water flow at the watershed outlet.

The main goal of this study was to improve the WEPP v2004.7 so that it can be applied to adequately simulate forest watershed hydrology and erosion. The specific objectives were to modify WEPP v2004.7 algorithms and subroutines that improperly represent forest subsurface hydrologic processes; and, to assess the performance of the modified model by applying it to a research forest watershed in the Pacific Northwest, USA.

Changes were made in WEPP v2004.7 to better model percolation of soil water and subsurface lateral flow. The modified model, WEPP v2008.9, was applied to the Hermada watershed located in the Boise National Forest, in southern Idaho, USA. The results from v2008.9 and v2004.7 as well as the field observations were compared. For the period of 1995.2000, average annual precipitation for the study area was 954 mm. Simulated annual watershed discharge was negligible using WEPP v2004.7, and was 262 mm using WEPP v2008.9, agreeable with field-observed 275 mm.

Moscow FSL publication no. 2009d