Effects of spatially structured vegetation patterns on hillslope erosion in a semiarid Mediterranean environment : a simulation study

Matthias Boer, J. Puigdefabregas

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    131 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    A general trend of decreasing soil loss rates with increasing vegetation cover fraction is widely accepted. Field observations and experimental work, however, show that the form of the cover-erosion function can vary considerably, in particular for low cover conditions that prevail on arid and semiarid hillslopes. In this paper the structured spatial distribution of the vegetation cover and associated soil attributes is proposed as one of the possible causes of variation in cover-erosion relationships, in particular in dryland environments where patchy vegetation covers are common. A simulation approach was used to test the hypothesis that hillslope discharge and soil loss could be affected by variation in the spatial correlation structure of coupled vegetation cover and soil patterns alone. The Limburg Soil Erosion Model (LISEM) was parameterized and verified for a small catchment with discontinuous vegetation cover at Rambla Honda, SE Spain. Using the same parameter sets LISEM was subsequently used to simulate water and sediment fluxes on 1 ha hypothetical hillslopes with simulated spatial distributions of vegetation and soil parameters. Storms of constant rainfall intensity in the range of 30-70 mm h(-1) and 10-30 min duration were applied. To quantity the effect of the spatial correlation structure of the vegetation and soil patterns, predicted discharge and soil loss rates from hillslopes with spatially structured distributions of vegetation and soil parameters were compared with those from hillslopes with spatially uniform distributions. The results showed that the spatial organization of bare and vegetated surfaces alone can have a substantial impact on predicted storm discharge and erosion. In general, water and sediment yields from hillslopes with spatially structured distributions of vegetation and soil parameters were greater than from identical hillslopes with spatially uniform distributions. Within a storm the effect of spatially structured vegetation and soil patterns was observed to be highly dynamic, and to depend on rainfall intensity and slope gradient. Copyright (C) 2005 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)149-167
    JournalEarth Surface Processes and Landforms
    Volume30
    Issue number2
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - 2005

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