Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2018, Vol. 10 Issue (5): 712-725    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-018-0121-z
Orginal Article     
Changes in soil properties and erodibility of gully heads induced by vegetation restoration on the Loess Plateau, China
Mingming GUO1, Wenlong WANG1,2,*(), Hongliang KANG1, Bo YANG1
1 State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China;
2 Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling 712100, China
Download: HTML     PDF(384KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


Soil erosion on the Loess Plateau of China is effectively controlled due to the implementation of several ecological restoration projects that improve soil properties and reduce soil erodibility. However, few studies have examined the effects of vegetation restoration on soil properties and erodibility of gully head in the gully regions of the Loess Plateau. The objectives of this study were to quantify the effects of vegetation restoration on soil properties and erodibility in this region. Specifically, a control site in a slope cropland and 9 sites in 3 restored land-use types (5 sites in grassland, 3 in woodland and 1 in shrubland) in the Nanxiaohegou watershed of a typical gully region on the Loess Plateau were selected, and soil and root samples were collected to assess soil properties and root characteristics. Soil erodibility factor was calculated by the Erosion Productivity Impact Calculator method. Our results revealed that vegetation restoration increased soil sand content, soil saturated hydraulic conductivity, organic matter content and mean weight diameter of water-stable aggregate but decreased soil silt and clay contents and soil disintegration rate. A significant difference in soil erodibility was observed among different vegetation restoration patterns or land-use types. Compared with cropland, soil erodibility decreased in the restored lands by 3.99% to 21.43%. The restoration patterns of Cleistogenes caespitosa K. and Artemisia sacrorum L. in the grassland showed the lowest soil erodibility and can be considered as the optimal vegetation restoration pattern for improving soil anti-erodibility of the gully heads. Additionally, the negative linear change in soil erodibility for grassland with restoration time was faster than those of woodland and shrubland. Soil erodibility was significantly correlated with soil particle size distribution, soil disintegration rate, soil saturated hydraulic conductivity, water-stable aggregate stability, organic matter content and root characteristics (including root average diameter, root length density, root surface density and root biomass density), but it showed no association with soil bulk density and soil total porosity. These findings indicate that although vegetation destruction is a short-term process, returning the soil erodibility of cropland to the level of grassland, woodland and shrubland is a long-term process (8-50 years).

Key wordssoil erosion      land use      soil properties      revegetation      root characteristics      headcut retreat      Loess Plateau     
Received: 21 July 2017      Published: 10 October 2018
Corresponding Authors: Wenlong WANG     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Mingming GUO, Wenlong WANG, Hongliang KANG, Bo YANG. Changes in soil properties and erodibility of gully heads induced by vegetation restoration on the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(5): 712-725.

URL:     OR

[1] An S S, Huang Y M, Zheng F L.2009. Evaluation of soil microbial indices along a revegetation chronosequence in grassland soils on the Loess Plateau, Northwest China. Applied Soil Ecology, 41(3): 286-292.
[2] Barthès B, Roose E.2002. Aggregate stability as an indicator of soil susceptibility to runoff and erosion; validation at several levels. Catena, 47(2): 133-149.
[3] Bennett S J, Alonso C V.2006. Turbulent flow and bed pressure within headcut scour holes due to plane reattached jets. Journal of Hydraulic Research, 44(4): 510-521.
[4] Bissonnais Y L.1996. Aggregate stability and assessment of soil crustability and erodibility: I. Theory and methodology. European Journal of Soil Science, 47(4): 425-437.
[5] Chen J J, He B H, Wang X Y, et al.2013. The effects of herba andrographitis hedgerows on soil erodibility and fractal features on sloping cropland in the Three Gorges Reservoir Area. Environmental Science and Pollution Research, 20(10): 7063-7070.
[6] De Baets S, Poesen J, Gyssels G, et al.2006. Effects of grass roots on the erodibility of topsoils during concentrated flow. Geomorphology, 76(1-2): 54-67.
[7] De Baets S, Poesen J, Knapen A, et al.2007. Impact of root architecture on the erosion-reducing potential of roots during concentrated flow. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 32(9): 1323-1345.
[8] De Baets S, Poesen J.2010. Empirical models for predicting the erosion-reducing effects of plant roots during concentrated flow erosion. Geomorphology, 118(3-4): 425-432.
[9] Deng Y S, Xia D, Cai C F, et al.2016. Effects of land uses on soil physic-chemical properties and erodibility in collapsing-gully alluvial fan of Anxi County, China. Journal of Integrative Agriculture, 15(8): 1863-1873.
[10] Frankl A, Poesen J, Deckers J, et al.2012. Gully head retreat rates in the semi-arid highlands of Northern Ethiopia. Geomorphology, 173-174: 185-195.
[11] Gómez-Gutiérrez á, Schnabel S, Berenguer-Sempere F, et al.2014. Using 3D photo-reconstruction methods to estimate gully headcut erosion. Catena, 120: 91-101.
[12] Gyssels G, Poesen J, Bochet E, et al.2005. Impact of plant roots on the resistance of soils to erosion by water: a review. Progress in Physical Geography, 29(2): 189-217.
[13] Gyssels G, Poesen J, Liu G B, et al.2006. Effects of cereal roots on detachment rates of single- and double-drilled topsoils during concentrated flow. European Journal of Soil Science, 57(3): 381-391.
[14] Hu W, Shao M A, Wang Q J, et al.2009. Temporal changes of soil hydraulic properties under different land uses. Geoderma, 149(3-4): 355-366.
[15] Huang Z L, Chen L D, Fu B J, et al.2010. The relative efficiency of four representative cropland conversions in reducing water erosion: evidence from long-term plots in the Loess hilly area, China. Land Degradation & Development, 17(6): 615-627.
[16] Jastrow J D.1996. Soil aggregate formation and the accrual of particulate and mineral-associated organic matter. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 28(4-5): 665-676.
[17] Jiao F, Wen Z M, An S S.2011. Changes in soil properties across a chronosequence of vegetation restoration on the Loess Plateau of China. Catena, 86(2): 110-116.
[18] Knapen A, Poesen J, Govers G, et al.2007. Resistance of soils to concentrated flow erosion: a review. Earth-Science Reviews, 80(1-2): 75-109.
[19] Knapen A, Poesen J, Govers G, et al.2008. The effect of conservation tillage on runoff erosivity and soil erodibility during concentrated flow. Hydrological Processes, 22(10): 1497-1508
[20] Kong A Y Y, Six J, Bryant D C, et al.2005. The relationship between carbon input, aggregation, and soil organic carbon stabilization in sustainable cropping systems. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 69(6): 1078-1085.
[21] Li Y Y, Shao M A.2003. Natural succession and evolution of structural characteristics of forest community in Ziwuling area on the Loess Plateau. Acta Botanica Boreali-Occidentalia Sinica, 23(5): 693-699. (in Chinese)
[22] Li Y Y, Shao M A.2006. Change of soil physical properties under long-term natural vegetation restoration in the Loess Plateau of China. Journal of Arid Environments. 64(1): 77-96.
[23] Li Q, Liu G B, Xu M X, 2013. Soil anti-scouribility and its related physical properties on abandoned land in the hilly Loess Plateau. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 29(10): 153-159. (in Chinese)
[24] Li Q, Liu G B, Zhang Z, et al.2015. Effect of root architecture on structural stability and erodibility of topsoils during concentrated flow in hilly Loess Plateau. Chinese Geographical Science, 25(6): 757-764.
[25] Li Z W, Zhang G H, Geng R, et al.2015. Rill erodibility as influenced by soil and land use in a small watershed of the Loess Plateau, China. Biosystems Engineering, 129: 248-257.
[26] Mamo M, Bubenzer G D.2001a. Detachment rate, soil erodibility, and soil strength as influenced by living plant roots: Part I. Laboratory study. American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 44: 1167-1174.
[27] Mamo M, Bubenzer G D.2001b. Detachment rate, soil erodibility and soil strength as influenced by living plant roots: Part II. Field study. American Society of Agricultural Engineers, 44: 1175-1181.
[28] Marzolff I, Poesen J.2009. The potential of 3D gully monitoring with GIS using high-resolution aerial photography and a digital photogrammetry system. Geomorphology, 111(1-2): 48-60.
[29] Parwada C, Tol J V.2016. Soil properties influencing erodibility of soils in the Ntabelanga area, Eastern Cape province, South Africa. Acta Agriculturae Scandinavica, Section B-Soil & Plant Science, 67(1): 67-76.
[30] Schwartz R C, Everett S R, Unger P W.2003. Soil hydraulic properties of cropland compared with reestablished and native grassland. Geoderma, 116(1-2): 47-60.
[31] Sheridan G J, So H B, Loch R J, et al.2000. Estimation of erosion model erodibility parameters from media properties. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 38(2): 265-284.
[32] Singh M J, Khera K L.2008. Soil erodibility indices under different land uses in lower shiwaliks. Tropical Ecology, 49(2): 113-119.
[33] Six J, Paustian K, Elliott E T, et al.2000. Soil structure and organic matter: I. distribution of aggregate-size classes and aggregate-associated carbon. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 64(2): 681-689.
[34] Six J, Bossuyt H, Degryze S, et al.2004. A history of research on the link between (micro) aggregates, soil biota, and soil organic matter dynamics. Soil and Tillage Research, 79(1): 7-31.
[35] Vanmaercke M, Poesen J, Mele B V, et al.2016. How fast do gully headcuts retreat? Earth-Science Reviews, 154: 336-355.
[36] Vannoppen W, Vanmaercke M, De Baets S, et al.2015. A review of the mechanical effects of plant roots on concentrated flow erosion rates. Earth-Science Reviews, 150: 666-678.
[37] Wang L, Mu Y, Zhang Q F, et al.2012. Effects of vegetation restoration on soil physical properties in the wind-water erosion region of the Northern Loess Plateau of China. Clean Soil Air Water, 40(1): 7-15.
[38] Wang B, Zhang G H, Shi Y Y, et al.2013. Effect of natural restoration time of abandoned farmland on soil detachment by overland flow in the Loess Plateau of China. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 38(14): 1725-1734.
[39] Wang B, Zhang G H, Shi Y Y, et al.2014. Soil detachment by overland flow under different vegetation restoration models in the Loess Plateau of China. Catena, 116(5): 51-59.
[40] Wang G Q, Fang Q Q, Wu B B, et al.2015. Relationship between soil erodibility and modeled infiltration rate in different soils. Journal of Hydrology, 528: 408-418.
[41] Williams J R, Arnold J G.1997. A system of erosion-sediment yield models. Soil Technology, 11(1): 43-55.
[42] Wu G L, Liu Y, Fang N F, et al.2016. Soil physical properties response to grassland conversion from cropland on the semi‐arid area. Ecohydrology, 9(8): 1471-1479.
[43] Yu Y C, Zhang G H, Geng R, et al.2014. Temporal variation in soil detachment capacity by overland flow under four typical crops in the Loess Plateau of China. Biosystems Engineering, 122(3): 139-148.
[44] Zhang G H, Tang M K, Zhang X C.2009. Temporal variation in soil detachment under different land uses in the Loess Plateau of China. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms, 34(9): 1302-1309.
[45] Zhang G H, Tang K M, Ren Z, et al.2013. Impact of grass root mass density on soil detachment capacity by concentrated flow on steep slopes. Transactions of the ASABE, 56(3): 927-934.
[46] Zhang Z H, Li X Y, Jiang Z Y, et al.2013. Changes in some soil properties induced by re-conversion of cropland into grassland in the semiarid steppe zone of Inner Mongolia, China. Plant and Soil, 373(1-2): 89-106.
[47] Zhao Y, Wu P, Zhao S, Feng H.2013. Variation of soil infiltrability across a 79-year chronosequence of naturally restored grassland on the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Hydrology, 504(22): 94-103.
[48] Zhou Z C, Gan Z T, Shangguan Z P, et al.2010. Effects of grazing on soil physical properties and soil erodibility in semiarid grassland of the northern Loess Plateau (China). Catena, 82(2): 87-91.
[49] Zhu B B, Li Z B, Li P, et al.2010. Soil erodibility, microbial biomass, and physical-chemical property changes during long-term natural vegetation restoration: a case study in the Loess Plateau, China. Ecological Research, 25(3): 531-541.
[1] CHEN Shumin, JIN Zhao, ZHANG Jing, YANG Siqi. Soil quality assessment in different dammed-valley farmlands in the hilly-gully mountain areas of the northern Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(8): 777-789.
[2] HUANG Laiming, ZHAO Wen, SHAO Ming'an. Response of plant physiological parameters to soil water availability during prolonged drought is affected by soil texture[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(7): 688-698.
[3] Ibtihal AL-MANTHRIA, Abdulrahim M AL-ISMAILIA, Hemesiri KOTAGAMAB, Mumtaz KHANC, L H Janitha JEEWANTHAD. Water, land, and energy use efficiencies and financial evaluation of air conditioner cooled greenhouses based on field experiments[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(4): 375-387.
[4] Sanim BISSENBAYEVA, Jilili ABUDUWAILI, Assel SAPAROVA, Toqeer AHMED. Long-term variations in runoff of the Syr Darya River Basin under climate change and human activities[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(1): 56-70.
[5] Samia S CORTéS, Juan I WHITWORTH-HULSE, Eduardo L PIOVANO, Diego E GURVICH, Patricio N MAGLIANO. Changes in rainfall partitioning caused by the replacement of native dry forests of Lithraea molleoides by exotic plantations of Pinus elliottii in the dry Chaco mountain forests, central Argentina[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 717-729.
[6] PEI Yanwu, HUANG Laiming, SHAO Ming'an, ZHANG Yinglong. Responses of Amygdalus pedunculata Pall. in the sandy and loamy soils to water stress[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 791-805.
[7] ZHANG Zhenchao, LIU Miao, SUN Jian, WEI Tianxing. Degradation leads to dramatic decrease in topsoil but not subsoil root biomass in an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 806-818.
[8] HE Qian, DAI Xiao'ai, CHEN Shiqi. Assessing the effects of vegetation and precipitation on soil erosion in the Three-River Headwaters Region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 865-886.
[9] LIU Qianjin, MA Liang, ZHANG Hanyu. Applying seepage modeling to improve sediment yield predictions in contour ridge systems[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(4): 676-689.
[10] GONG Yidan, XING Xuguang, WANG Weihua. Factors determining soil water heterogeneity on the Chinese Loess Plateau as based on an empirical mode decomposition method[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 462-472.
[11] QIAO Xianguo, GUO Ke, LI Guoqing, ZHAO Liqing, LI Frank Yonghong, GAO Chenguang. Assessing the collapse risk of Stipa bungeana grassland in China based on its distribution changes[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(2): 303-317.
[12] LUO Zhidong, LIU Erjia, QI Shi, ZHAO Nan, SUN Yun. Flow regime changes in three catchments with different landforms following ecological restoration in the Chinese Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(1): 44-57.
[13] ZERAATPISHEH Mojtaba, AYOUBI Shamsollah, SULIEMAN Magboul, RODRIGO-COMINO Jesús. Determining the spatial distribution of soil properties using the environmental covariates and multivariate statistical analysis: a case study in semi-arid regions of Iran[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 551-566.
[14] Jun WU, STEPHEN Yeboah, Liqun CAI, Renzhi ZHANG, Peng QI, Zhuzhu LUO, Lingling LI, Junhong XIE, Bo DONG. Effects of different tillage and straw retention practices on soil aggregates and carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils of the northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 567-578.
[15] Yupeng LI, Yaning CHEN, Zhi LI. Effects of land use and cover change on surface wind speed in China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(3): 345-356.