Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (1): 59-78.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1459-z

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The effects of vegetation on runoff and soil loss:Multidimensional structure analysis and scale characteristics

Jianbo LIU1,2,3(), Guangyao GAO1,2, Shuai WANG1,2, Lei JIAO1,4, Xing WU1,2, Bojie FU1,2,*()   

  1. 1. State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental Sciences, CAS, Beijing 100085, China
    2. Joint Center for Global Change Studies, Beijing 100875, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    4. . College of Tourism and Environment, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710119, China
  • Received:2017-03-07 Accepted:2017-06-02 Online:2018-01-10 Published:2018-01-10
  • Contact: Bojie FU;
  • About author:

    Author: Liu Jianbo, PhD Candidate, specialized in landscape ecology, runoff and soil erosion.

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41390464;National Key Research and Development Program, No.2016YFC0501602;Youth Innovation Promotion Association CAS, No.2016040


This review summarizes the effects of vegetation on runoff and soil loss in three dimensions: vertical vegetation structures (aboveground vegetation cover, surface litter layer and underground roots), plant diversity, vegetation patterns and their scale characteristics. Quantitative relationships between vegetation factors with runoff and soil loss are described. A framework for describing relationships involving vegetation, erosion and scale is proposed. The relative importance of each vegetation dimension for various erosion processes changes across scales. With the development of erosion features (i.e., splash, interrill, rill and gully), the main factor of vertical vegetation structures in controlling runoff and soil loss changes from aboveground biomass to roots. Plant diversity levels are correlated with vertical vegetation structures and play a key role at small scales, while vegetation patterns also maintain a critical function across scales (i.e., patch, slope, catchment and basin/region). Several topics for future study are proposed in this review, such as to determine efficient vegetation architectures for ecological restoration, to consider the dynamics of vegetation patterns, and to identify the interactions involving the three dimensions of vegetation.

Key words: runoff, soil loss, vertical vegetation structure, plant diversity, vegetation pattern, scale characteristics