Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2018, Vol. 28 ›› Issue (10): 1415-1426.doi: 10.1007/s11442-018-1553-2

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The influence of rainfall and land use patterns on soil erosion in multi-scale watersheds: A case study in the hilly and gully area on the Loess Plateau, China

Jun WANG1(), Lina ZHONG1,2, Wenwu ZHAO3, Lingxiao YING1   

  1. 1. Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation Center, Key Laboratory of Land Consolidation and Rehabilitation, Ministry of Land and Resources, Beijing 100035, China
    2. School of Land Science and Technology, China University of Geosciences, Beijing 100083, China
    3. College of Resources Science and Technology, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
  • Received:2017-04-07 Accepted:2018-01-20 Online:2018-10-25 Published:2018-10-25
  • About author:

    Author: Wang Jun (1970-), Professor, specialized in landscape ecology and land sustainable use. E-mail:

  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41771207, No.41171069


Soil erosion has become a major global environmental problem and is particularly acute on the Loess Plateau (LP), China. It is therefore highly important to control this process in order to improve ecosystems, protect ecological security, and maintain the harmonious relationship between humans and nature. We compared the effects of rainfall and land use (LU) patterns on soil erosion in different LP watersheds in this study in order to augment and improve soil erosion models. As most research on this theme has so far been focused on individual study areas, limited analyses of rainfall and LU patterns on soil erosion within different-scale watersheds has so far been performed, a discrepancy which might influence the simulation accuracies of soil erosion models. We therefore developed rainfall and LU pattern indices in this study using the soil erosion evaluation index as a reference and applied them to predict the extent of this process in different-scale watersheds, an approach which is likely to play a crucial role in enabling the comprehensive management of this phenomenon as well as the optimized design of LU patterns. The areas considered in this study included the Qingjian, Fenchuan, Yanhe, and Dali river watersheds. Results showed that the rainfall erosivity factor (R) tended to increase in these areas from 2006 to 2012, while the vegetation cover and management factor (C) tended to decrease. Results showed that as watershed area increased, the effect of rainfall pattern on soil erosion gradually decreased while patterns in LU trended in the opposite direction, as the relative proportion of woodland decreased and the different forms of steep slope vegetation cover became more homogenous. As watershed area increased, loose soil and craggy terrain properties led to additional gravitational erosion and enhanced the effects of both soil and topography.

Key words: soil erosion, rainfall, land use patterns, multi-watershed, Loess Plateau