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Modeling erosion risks for archaeological sites in the American Southwest using GIS and RUSLE (the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation)

Author(s): Sandi Copeland ; Amanda White ; Samuel Loftin ; Leslie Hansen ; Benjamin Sutter

Year: 2017

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Summary

The greatest climate change related threat to archaeological sites in the American Southwest is soil erosion brought on by hotter temperatures, increasingly intense wildfires, bark beetle infestations, and other subsequent changes in habitats. At Los Alamos National Laboratory in northern New Mexico, we manage 38 square miles of canyons and mesas that contain more than 1700 archaeological sites, most of which are affiliated with Ancestral Pueblo cultures. In order to identify and protect the sites at highest risk for erosion, we created a soil erosion model using a geographic information system (GIS) and the revised universal soil loss equation (RUSLE). The model combines GIS layers that reflect climate, soil types, land cover, and LIDAR-based topography with a 2-meter-square resolution. The model estimates tons of soil eroded per acre per year, but is best interpreted as a relative measure in this initial application. At Los Alamos National Laboratory, the model successfully identifies sites with threatening erosional issues, such as small gullies within the boundaries of mesa-top pueblo roomblocks, and shows promise for use as a tool for comparing areas of greatest erosional concern across the Laboratory.


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Modeling erosion risks for archaeological sites in the American Southwest using GIS and RUSLE (the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation). Sandi Copeland, Amanda White, Samuel Loftin, Leslie Hansen, Benjamin Sutter. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428971)


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Spatial Coverage

min long: -115.532; min lat: 30.676 ; max long: -102.349; max lat: 42.033 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 16678

Arizona State University The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation National Science Foundation National Endowment for the Humanities Society for American Archaeology Archaeological Institute of America