Simulation models are widely used for studying physical processes such as surface runoff, sediment transport and sediment yield in catchments. Most models need case-specific empirical data for parameterization before being applied especially in regions other than the ones they have been developed. Sensitivity analysis is usually performed to determine the most influential factors of a model so that they can be prioritized for optimization. In this way uncertainties in model outputs can be reduced considerably. This study evaluates the commonly used modified universal soil loss equation (MUSLE) model used for sediment yield simulation for the case of the upper Malewa catchment in Kenya. The conceptual factors of the model are assessed relative to the hydrological factors in the model. Also, the sensitivity of the model to the choice of the objective function in calibration is tested. The Sobol' sensitivity analysis method was used for evaluating the degree of sensitivity of the conceptual and hydrological factors for sediment yield simulations using the MUSLE model. Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSE) and the modified Nash-Sutcliffe Efficiency (NSEm) are used to test the sensitivity of the model to the choice of the objective function and robustness of model performance with sediment data measured from upper Malewa catchment, Kenya. The results indicate that the conceptual factors are the most sensitive factors of the MUSLE model contributing about 66% of the variability in the output sediment yield. Increased variability of sediment yield output was also observed. This was attributed to interactions of input factors. For the upper Malewa catchment calibration of the MUSLE model indicates that the use of NSEm as an objective function provides stable results, which indicates that the model can satisfactorily be applied for sediment yield simulations.
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