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Impact of lithology and soil properties on abandoned dryland terraces during the early stages of soil erosion by water in south‐east Spain

Martínez‐Hernández, Carlos, Rodrigo‐Comino, Jesús, Romero‐Díaz, Asunción
Hydrological processes 2017 v.31 no.17 pp. 3095-3109
aggregate stability, arid lands, biodegradation, bulk density, infiltration rate, marl, metamorphic rocks, organic matter, rainfall simulation, runoff, semiarid zones, soil analysis, soil erosion, soil water, terraces, texture, vegetation, Spain
Soil erosion by water in abandoned dry terraces is one of the most important environmental problems in semiarid areas, enhancing biological degradation and reducing possible resources that can be obtained. However, little is known about the effects of the types of lithology and soil properties on the early stages of soil erosion. Therefore, the main aim of this research was to assess the effect of different lithologies (marls, limestones, and metamorphic—phyllites, schists, and greywackes—materials) and soil properties on the early stages of soil erosion by water in abandoned dry terraces, compared with similar terraces still in agricultural use. Soil analyses (texture, aggregate stability, and bulk density) and 22 rainfall simulations were carried out under dry conditions. During the experiments, local inclination, vegetation and stone cover, total organic matter, and antecedent soil moisture were also quantified. The results showed that the highest soil loss (41.41 g/m² in cultivated plots and 17.05 g/m² in the abandoned plots) and runoff (3.79 L/m² in the abandoned plot) occurred on marl substrata. Marls also showed the shallowest infiltration front (9 cm) and lowest infiltration rate (4.3 cm/min). Limestones and, especially, metamorphic areas, showed a lower degree of soil erosion, higher infiltration rates, and deeper infiltration fronts.