Sediment trap efficiency of paddy fields at the watershed scale in a mountainous catchment in northwest Vietnam
Abstract. Composite agricultural systems with permanent maize cultivation in the uplands and irrigated rice in the valleys are very common in mountainous southeast Asia. The soil loss and fertility decline of the upland fields is well documented, but little is known about reallocation of these sediments within the landscape. In this study, a turbidity-based linear mixed model was used to quantify sediment inputs, from surface reservoir irrigation water and from direct overland flow, into a paddy area of 13 ha. Simultaneously, the sediment load exported from the rice fields was determined. Mid-infrared spectroscopy was applied to analyze sediment particle size. Our results showed that per year, 64 Mg ha−1 of sediments were imported into paddy fields, of which around 75 % were delivered by irrigation water and the remainder by direct overland flow during rainfall events. Overland flow contributed one-third of the received sandy fraction, while irrigated sediments were predominantly silty. Overall, rice fields were a net sink for sediments, trapping 28 Mg ha−1 a−1 or almost half of total sediment inputs. As paddy outflow consisted almost exclusively of silt- and clay-sized material, 24 Mg ha−1 a−1 of the trapped amount of sediment was estimated to be sandy. Under continued intensive upland maize cultivation, such a sustained input of coarse material could jeopardize paddy soil fertility, puddling capacity and ultimately food security of the inhabitants of these mountainous areas. Preventing direct overland flow from entering the paddy fields, however, could reduce sand inputs by up to 34 %.