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Effects of vegetation and slope aspect on water budget in the hill and gully region of the Loess Plateau of China

Wang, Li, Wei, Sanping, Horton, Robert, Shao, Ming'an
Catena 2011 v.87 no.1 pp. 90-100
Quercus, Robinia pseudoacacia, agricultural land, evaporation, forests, heat, hills, models, runoff, soil water, soil water content, soil water recharge, stemflow, throughfall, transpiration, water balance, water conservation, China
Precipitation, throughfall, stemflow and soil water content were measured, and interception, transpiration, evaporation, runoff, deep percolation and soil water recharge were estimated in the natural Liaotung Oak (Quercus liaotungensis) and regrown Black Locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) forestlands in the hill and gully region of the China Loess Plateau. Four stands (south- and north-facing slopes) of two forests were studied between May 27, 2006 and October 31, 2007. Hydrological fluxes were calculated using a coupled water and heat flow model called CoupModel. Throughfall, stemflow and soil water content were used to calibrate the model. The simulations indicated that, interception, vegetation transpiration and soil water evaporation were the main components of water consumption in the 4 stands, accounting for about 90% of the precipitation. The simulated interception and vegetation transpiration in the south-facing slope (154 and 327mm in regrown forestland and 173 and 338mm in natural forestland) were lower than those in the north-facing slope (219 and 344mm in regrown forestland and 203 and 342mm in natural forestland). Soil water evaporation in the south-facing slope (416mm in regrown forestland and 373mm in natural forestland) was larger than that in the north-facing slope (325mm in regrown forestland and 330mm in natural forestland) in the same vegetation stands. This was mainly due to greater vegetation density in the north-facing slope than in the south-facing slope. For the regrown forestlands, the simulated soil water recharge was larger under north-facing slope stands (90mm) than under south-facing slope stands (76mm), and the natural forestland in the north-facing slope had the largest soil water recharge (104mm). The results indicated that vegetation species and slope aspects significantly influenced the water balance budget in the soil–vegetation–atmosphere system. The water budget differences among the 4 stands indicate that care is required for properly selecting regrown tree-species. Soil and water conservation measures must be applied scientifically when converting farmland to forest in the Loess Plateau of China, especially on the south-facing slopes.