Use of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) for Mapping Erosion Potential in Gulf of Mexico Watersheds
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Use of Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA) for Mapping Erosion Potential in Gulf of Mexico Watersheds

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    The evaluation of soil erosion is often assessed using traditional soil-loss models such as the Revised Universal Soil-Loss Equation (RUSLE) and the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). These models provide quantitative outputs for sediment yield and are often integrated with geographic information systems (GIS). The work described here is focused on transitioning towards a qualitative assessment of erosion potential using Multi-Criteria Decision Analysis (MCDA), for improved decision-support and watershed-management prioritization in a northern Gulf of Mexico coastal watershed. The foundation of this work conceptually defined watershed erosion potential based on terrain slope, geomorphology, land cover, and soil erodibility (as defined by the soil K-factor) with precipitation as a driver. These criteria were evaluated using a weighted linear combination (WLC) model to map generalized erosion potential. The sensitivity of individual criteria was accessed with the one-at-a-time (OAT) method, which simply removed one criterion and re-evaluated erosion potential. The soil erodibility and slope were found to have the most influence on erosion-potential modeling. Expert input was added through MCDA using the Analytical Hierarchy Process (AHP). The AHP allows for experts to rank criteria, providing a quantitative metric (weight) for the qualitative data. The individual AHP weights were altered in one-percent increments to help identify areas of alignment or commonality in erosion potential across the drainage basin. These areas were used to identify outliers and to develop an analysis mask for watershed management area prioritization. A comparison of the WLC, AHP, ensembled model (average of WLC and AHP models), and SWAT output data resulted in visual geographic alignment between the WLC and AHP erosion-potential output with the SWAT sediment-yield output. These observations yielded similar results between the qualitative and quantitative erosion-potential assessment approaches, with alignment in the upper and lower ranks of the mapped erosion potentials and sediment yields. The MCDA, using the AHP and ensembled modeling for mapping watershed potential, provided the advantage of more quickly mapping erosion potential in coastal watersheds for improved management of the environmental resources linked to erosion.
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    Water, 14(12), 1923
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