Development and application of a GIS-based sediment budget model

J Environ Manage. 2007 Jul;84(2):157-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2006.05.019. Epub 2006 Oct 6.


Accelerated erosion and increased sediment yields resulting from changes in land use are a critical environmental problem. Resource managers and decision makers need spatially explicit tools to help them predict the changes in sediment production and delivery due to unpaved roads and other types of land disturbance. This is a particularly important issue in much of the Caribbean because of the rapid pace of development and potential damage to nearshore coral reef communities. The specific objectives of this study were to: (1) develop a GIS-based sediment budget model; (2) use the model to evaluate the effects of unpaved roads on sediment delivery rates in three watersheds on St. John in the US Virgin Islands; and (3) compare the predicted sediment yields to pre-existing data. The St. John Erosion Model (STJ-EROS) is an ArcInfo-based program that uses empirical sediment production functions and delivery ratios to quantify watershed-scale sediment yields. The program consists of six input routines and five routines to calculate sediment production and delivery. The input routines have interfaces that allow the user to adjust the key variables that control sediment production and delivery. The other five routines use pre-set erosion rate constants, user-defined variables, and values from nine data layers to calculate watershed-scale sediment yields from unpaved road travelways, road cutslopes, streambanks, treethrow, and undisturbed hillslopes. STJ-EROS was applied to three basins on St. John with varying levels of development. Predicted sediment yields under natural conditions ranged from 2 to 7Mgkm(-2)yr(-1), while yield rates for current conditions ranged from 8 to 46Mgkm(-2)yr(-1). Unpaved roads are estimated to be increasing sediment delivery rates by 3-6 times for Lameshur Bay, 5-9 times for Fish Bay, and 4-8 times for Cinnamon Bay. Predicted basin-scale sediment yields for both undisturbed and current conditions are within the range of measured sediment yields and bay sedimentation rates. The structure and user interfaces in STJ-EROS mean that the model can be readily adapted to other areas and used to assess the impact of unpaved roads and other land uses sediment production and delivery.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Analysis of Variance
  • Animals
  • Anthozoa / physiology*
  • Caribbean Region
  • Conservation of Natural Resources / economics
  • Environmental Monitoring*
  • Geographic Information Systems*
  • Geologic Sediments / analysis*
  • Geologic Sediments / chemistry
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Policy Making
  • Risk Assessment
  • United States Virgin Islands
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*


  • Water Pollutants