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Tool Overview: 

WEPPCAT is a free, online erosion simulation tool that allows users to analyze potential stream sediment loading in response to various climate change and land management scenarios. WEPPCAT leverages the existing USDA Water Erosion Prediction Project (WEPP) Model, but has additional features that allow analysis of climate impacts and various land management practices on soil yield and loss. This tool allows for high user customization; users select their location (e.g., state, nearest climate station, soil type) and field characteristics (e.g., length, width, slope angle and shape, crop or management type), and can manipulate land management components to simulate adaptive management. For example, users can compare various agricultural land management techniques (e.g., till, mulch, chisel) and compare the benefits of various field buffers that vary in composition and width. WEPPCAT also allows high flexibility in future climate modeling. Users can adjust temperatures, mean precipitation and number of wet days per month, and examine impacts at varying elevations, latitudes, and longitudes. Further, WEPPCAT is one of the only simulation tools that allows users to manipulate and examine soil erosion impacts from increasing rainfall intensity. Users typically generate baseline conditions and assess the sensitivity of current practices to climate change, and then analyze how sediment yields shift under various climate change and management strategy scenarios. Results can be analyzed singularly or in comparison to numerous simulations, and all resultant and input data sets can be saved and accessed later for further analysis. Overall, WEPPCAT can be used to assess the sensitivity of different land parcels and adjacent water bodies to rain-based erosion under future climate scenarios, but can also be used to inform the development of sediment-focused best management practices (BMPs) that protect and/or enhance water quality even in the face of climate change.

Example in use: WEPPCAT was applied to an agricultural area in Blue Earth County, Minnesota, to evaluate how climate change and various land use practices could affect future soil erosion and water quality. Project partners first assessed the sensitivity of conventional agricultural practice to climate change, specifically examining how increased temperatures and altered precipitation volume and precipitation event intensity would affect soil yield and loss. They identified that soil erosion from conventional corn and soybean production practices would increase significantly in response to increasing precipitation volume and intensity, although sediment yield varied according to soil type, slope, and crop, with corn experiencing less soil loss than soy. To simulate and compare potential adaptive management options, project partners modeled sediment yield and loss under the same climate scenarios but using different tillage practices and with the addition of field buffers of different widths and types. Project partners found that several management practices, specifically planting forest or grass buffers and/or eliminating till practices, could be used to prevent and/or reduce sediment yield from corn fields even under severe future precipitation changes. Results from this study allowed users to not only identify vulnerability of current agricultural practices to future climate change, but to evaluate the effectiveness of various land management practices in mitigating increases in sediment yield. This type of information will play a critical role in informing adaptive management in the area.

Phase of Adaptation: Assessment, Planning

Tool Audience/Users: 

Farmers, foresters, land managers, regional/state/local agencies, planners, natural resource managers, water resources managers (stormwater, drinking water)

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