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Abstract,  Environmental Management, 2018

Various soil and water conservation measures (SWC) have been widely implemented to reduce surface runoff in degraded and drought-prone watersheds. But little quantitative study has been done on to what extent such measures can reduce watershed-scale runoff, particularly from typical humid tropical highlands of Ethiopia. The overall goal of this study is to analyze the impact of SWC interventions on the runoff response by integrating field measurement with a hydrological CN model which gives a quantitative analysis future thought. Firstly, a paired-watershed approach was employed to quantify the relative difference in runoff response for the Kasiry (treated) and Akusty (untreated) watersheds. Secondly, a calibrated curve number hydrological modeling was applied to investigate the effect of various SWC management scenarios for the Kasiry watershed alone. The paired-watershed approach showed a distinct runoff response between the two watersheds however the effect of SWC measures was not clearly discerned being masked by other factors. On the other hand, the model predicts that, under the current SWC coverage at Kasiry, the seasonal runoff yield is being reduced by 5.2%. However, runoff yields from Kasiry watershed could be decreased by as much as 34% if soil bunds were installed on cultivated land and trenches were installed on grazing and plantation lands. In contrast, implementation of SWC measures on bush land and natural forest would have little effect on reducing runoff. The results on the magnitude of runoff reduction under optimal combinations of SWC measures and land use will support decision-makers in selection and promotion of valid management practices that are suited to particular biophysical niches in the tropical humid highlands of Ethiopia.