Research Articles

Soil erosion and its response to the changes of precipitation and vegetation cover on the Loess Plateau

  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China;
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Sun Wenyi, Ph.D, specialized in GIS and ecological information. E-mail:

Received date: 2013-01-10

  Revised date: 2013-04-02

  Online published: 2013-11-14

Supported by

Ecological environment investigation and assessment in ten years in the zone of major ecological protection and construction, No.STSN-14-00; China Global Research Program, No.2010CB950902


Soil erosion is a major threat to our terrestrial ecosystems and an important global environmental problem. The Loess Plateau in China is one of the regions that suffered more severe soil erosion and undergoing climate warming and drying in the past decades. The vegetation restoration named Grain-to-Green Program has now been operating for more than 10 years. It is necessary to assess the variation of soil erosion and the response of precipitation and vegetation restoration to soil erosion on the Loess Plateau. In the study, the Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation (RUSLE) was applied to evaluate annual soil loss caused by water erosion. The results showed as follows. The soil erosion on the Loess Plateau between 2000 and 2010 averaged for 15.2 t hm-2 a-1 and was characterized as light for the value less than 25 t hm-2 a-1. The severe soil erosion higher than 25 t hm-2 a-1 was mainly distributed in the gully and hilly regions in the central, southwestern, and some scattered areas of earth-rocky mountainous areas on the Loess Plateau. The soil erosion on the Loess Plateau showed a deceasing trend in recent decade and reduced more at rates more than 1 t hm-2 a-1 in the areas suffering severe soil loss. Benefited from the improved vegetation cover and ecological construction, the soil erosion on the Loess Plateau was significantly declined, especially in the east of Yulin, most parts of Yan'an prefectures in Shaanxi Province, and the west of Luliang and Linfen prefectures in Shanxi Province in the hilly and gully regions. The variation of vegetation cover responding to soil erosion in these areas showed the relatively higher contribution than the precipitation. However, most areas in Qingyang and Dingxi prefectures in Gansu Province and Guyuan in Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region were predominantly related to precipitation.

Cite this article

SUN Wenyi, SHAO Quanqin, LIU Jiyuan . Soil erosion and its response to the changes of precipitation and vegetation cover on the Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2013 , 23(6) : 1091 -1106 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-013-1065-z


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