Soil losses must be quantified over watersheds in order to set up protection measures against erosion. The main objective of this paper is to quantify and to map soil losses in the Wadi Sahouat basin (2140 km2) in the north-west of Algeria, using the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) model assisted by a Geographic Information System (GIS) and remote sensing. The Model Builder of the GIS allowed the automation of the different operations for establishing thematic layers of the model parameters: the erosivity factor (R), the erodibility factor (K), the topographic factor (LS), the crop management factor (C), and the conservation support practice factor (P). The average annual soil loss rate in the Wadi Sahouat basin ranges from 0 to 255 t ha-1 year-1, maximum values being observed over steep slopes of more than 25% and between 600 and 1000 m elevations. 3.4% of the basin is classified as highly susceptible to erosion, 4.9% with a medium risk, and 91.6% at a low risk. Google Earth reveals a clear conformity with the degree of zones to erosion sensitivity. Based on the soil loss map, 32 sub-basins were classified into three categories by priority of intervention: high, moderate, and low. This priority is available to sustain a management plan against sediment filling of the Ouizert dam at the basin outlet. The method enhancing the RUSLE model and confrontation with Google Earth can be easily adapted to other watersheds.
Keywords: Algeria; Erosion; GIS; Model Builder; RUSLE; Remote sensing; Wadi Sahouat.