A number of means are available for indirectly measuring soil erosion. Early aerial photos have provided the base line for determining long-term changes in channel size and location, gully head-cutting and widening, success and failure of terracing, and other man-made conservation practices. Towers and high-lift boom trucks have been used as platforms for collecting three-dimensional imagery for estimating erosion in artificial rainfall studies. Satellite imagery offers opportunities to identify and measure channel sizes and surrounding features, such as surface roughness, surface residue, and canopy cover that affect the erosion process.
Erosion on forest-, range-, and croplands can be estimated by empirical or process-based models. The estimates can be made for the current situation on the area of interest and can be used to estimate the effect of changes in management practices, such as timber harvest and road building, increasing or decreasing the grazing pressure on rangeland, or changing rotations or the tillage system on cropland. Models are used in policymaking decisions and in estimating benefits resulting from potential application of conservation practices in order to set support payment levels to encourage their application by land managers. The most-used equation worldwide is the universal soil loss equation (USLE) or a computer-based version, the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE). A number of other models are available, such as the Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP).
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