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Effects of vegetation and rainfall types on surface runoff and soil erosion on steep slopes on the Loess Plateau, China

Chen, Hao, Zhang, Xiaoping, Abla, Muratjan, Lü, Du, Yan, Rui, Ren, Qingfu, Ren, Zhiyong, Yang, Yahui, Zhao, Wenhui, Lin, Pengfei, Liu, Baoyuan, Yang, Xihua
Catena 2018 v.170 pp. 141-149
Bothriochloa ischaemum, ecological restoration, erosion control, forests, grasslands, monitoring, rain, runoff, shrublands, soil, soil erosion, China
It is widely recognized that vegetation restoration plays a key role in controlling soil erosion in China's Loess Plateau. However, the effects of vegetation types on soil erosion on steep slopes of the Loess Plateau are not yet fully understood. In this study, we carried out our experiments on surface runoff and soil loss monitoring at nine runoff plots with different vegetation types over a nine-year period from 2008 to 2016 to evaluate the effects of vegetation and rainfall on soil erosion. We classified forty-three rainfall events into three rainfall types based on a rainfall concentration index and further analyzed the sensitivities of the runoff and soil loss to these rainfall types. The results indicated that the grassland (Bothriochloa ischaemum L.) and shrubland (Sea-buckthorn) with high ground cover had a lower runoff depth and soil loss compared to the forestlands with poor ground cover with an average reduction of 50% in annual runoff depth and 92% in annual soil loss. Comparison of the mean runoff coefficient and soil loss in the three rainfall types demonstrated that rainfall events with high intensity and short duration caused more surface runoff and soil loss under all vegetation types. A power function fitted well in the runoff-soil loss relationship and the result showed that the grassland and shrubland had a smaller magnitude term which reflects less soil susceptibility to erosion. The research implies that the ground cover is an important factor in controlling soil and water loss and vegetation measures with high ground cover should be strongly recommended for soil erosion control on the Loess Plateau. It is helpful for vegetation restoration strategy and conserving soil and water on steep slopes of this area.