Document Type : Research Paper


1 PhD candidate in watershed Management sciences and engineering, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran.

2 Associate Professor, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran.

3 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Rangeland and Watershed Management, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran.

4 Assistant Professor, Faculty of Natural Resources, University of Tehran, Karaj, Iran.

5 Professor, Soil Conservation and Watershed Management Research Institute, Tehran, Iran.

6 Associate Professor, Faculty of Rangeland and Watershed Management, Gorgan University of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources, Gorgan, Iran.


The SWAT model is widely used to simulate watersheds and evaluate the impact of conservation watershed management practices. In this model, the simulation of the watershed processes is based on hydrological response units (HRUs) which are created by overlaying land use /land cover, soil and slope maps. Meanwhile, in the HRUs definition steps, these units become conceptual and lose their spatial location and continuously. This approach is a useful and often inevitable way to simulate large and heterogeneous watersheds in terms of computational efficiency. However, if the aim is spatializing and evaluating the effectiveness of management methods on runoff, sediment and other pollutants in medium to small basins, it is necessary to know the exact location of HRUs. The purpose of conducting this study was present a new approach to defining spatial and independent HRUs and compare the simulation results based on this method with the standard form of the model. In the new approach, independent and spatial HRUs are defined through pre-processing procedures in GIS and uniquely named soil units. The model results of both approaches were very similar and no significant difference was observed in the model outputs in Taleghan watershed. The Nash-Sutcliffe coefficient of the simulated runoff and sediment at the outlet with the standard approach was 0.75 and 0.64, respectively. While, it was obtained 0.74 and 0.61, respectively for the new approach. The definition of spatial HRUs by applying the proposed method provides more tangible and practical outputs, which is more beneficial for identifying the critical areas as well as locating conservation practices compared to the conceptual HRUs approach.


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