Landscape and Ecological Engineering

, Volume 15, Issue 1, pp 91–99 | Cite as

Soil infiltration rate of forestland and grassland over different vegetation restoration periods at Loess Plateau in northern hilly areas of China

  • Shahmir Ali Kalhoro
  • Kang Ding
  • Beiying Zhang
  • Wenyuan Chen
  • Rui Hua
  • Akhtar Hussain Shar
  • Xuexuan XuEmail author
Original Paper


Vegetation restoration practices play an important role in environmental management and could mitigate soil and water losses in the Chinese Loess Plateau. The main objective of this study was to ascertain the influence of vegetation durations on soil infiltration rate and other related soil properties. Undisturbed soil columns in triplicate from the same plot, with different locations, were collected to estimate the accumulated soil infiltration over different vegetation periods (9, 15, and 25 years) of grassland and forestland at different time intervals. The highest cumulative infiltration and wet front movement speed was recorded after 25 years of grassland and increased with the vegetation restoration duration. Low root biomass density (g cm−3) and soil organic matter (g kg−1) were recorded in the 9-year plantation of forestland and grassland; however, maximum root biomass densities of 1.614 ± 0.95 mg cm−3 and 0.938 ± 0.03 mg cm−3 were recorded after 25 years of forestland and grassland. Furthermore, root images scanner analysis showed that the 25 years of grassland has higher root length density and root surface area density of 5.917 ± 0.86 cm cm−3 and 2.058 ± 0.95 cm2 cm−3 at surface and subsurface soil layers. We therefore suggest that for revegetation periods of less than 25 years, grassland would be better for soil infiltration and related soil properties particularly in areas of the Chinese Loess Plateau.

Graphical abstract


Vegetation restoration periods Soil infiltration Root image analysis Loess Plateau 



This study is financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC) under project rectification nos. 41471439, 41701025. We would like to express our appreciation to Dr. Phillip W. Ford, scientist of CSIRO, Australia for technical support and valuable suggestions. Administrative support provided by the Changwu state key agro-ecological experimental station, China.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

All authors certify that no conflict of interest exists, and that they have no financial arrangement with any company whose product figures prominently in the submitted manuscript or with a company making a competing product.


  1. Bargues Tobella A, Reese H, Almaw A, Bayala J, Malmer A, Laudon H, Ilstedt U (2014) Effects of trees on infiltrability and preferential flow in two contrasting agro-ecosystems in Central America. Water Resour Res 50:3342–3354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bruun TB, Elberling B, de Neergaard A, Magid J (2015) Organic carbon dynamics in different soil types after conversion of forest to agriculture. Land Degrad Dev 26:272–283CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cai J, Zeng Z, Connor JN, Huang CY, Melino V, Kumar P, Miklavcic SJ (2015) Root graph: a graphic optimization tool for automated image analysis of plant roots. J Exp Bot 66:6551–6562CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chartier MP, Rostagno CM, Pazos GE (2011) Effects of soil degradation on infiltration rates in grazed semiarid rangelands of northeastern Patagonia, Argentina. J Arid Environ 75:656–661CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Chen HS, Shao MG, Li YY (2008) Soil desiccation in the Loess Plateau of China. Geoderma 143:91–100CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Contosta AR, Frey SD, Cooper AB (2015) Soil microbial communities vary as much over time as with chronic warming and nitrogen additions. Soil Biol Biochem 88:19–24CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Deng L, Shangguan ZP, Li R (2012) Effects of the grain-for-green program on soil erosion in China. Int J Sediment Res 27:120–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Derak M, Cortina J (2014) Multi-criteria participative evaluation of Pinus halepensis plantations in a semiarid area of southeast Spain. Ecol Indic 43:56–68CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Dunn G, Phillips R (1958) Macroporosity of a well-drained soil under no-till and conventional tillage. Soil Sci Soc Am J 55:817–823CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Fu BJ, Liu Y, Lu YH, He CS, Zeng Y, Wu BF (2011) Assessing the soil erosion control service of ecosystems change in the Loess Plateau of China. Ecol Complex 8:284–293CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Gonzalez-Sosa E, Braud I, Dehotin J, Lassabatere L, Angulo-Jaramillo R, Lagouy M, Branger F, Jacqueminet C, Kermadi S, Michel K (2010) Impact of land use on the hydraulic properties of the topsoil in a small French catchment. Hydrol Process 24:2382–2399Google Scholar
  12. Himmelbauer ML, Loiskandl W, Kastanek F (2004) Estimating length, average diameter and surface area of roots using two different image analyses systems. Plant Soil 260:111–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Horton RE (1940) An approach towards physical interpretation of infiltration capacity. Proc Soil Sci Soc Am 5:399–417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Huang MB, Barbour SL, Elshorbagy A, Zettl JD, Si BC (2011) Infiltration and drainage processes in multi-layered coarse soils. Can J Soil Sci 91(2):169–183CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Huang Z, Tian FP, Wu GL, Liu Y, Dang ZQ (2016) Legume Grasslands Promote Precipitation Infiltration better than Gramineous Grasslands in arid Regions. Land Degrad Develop 28(1):309–316CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Jian SQ, Zhao CY, Fang SM, Yu K (2014) Distribution of fine root biomass of main planting tree species in Loess Plateau, China. Ying Yong Sheng Tai Xue Bao 25:1905–1911Google Scholar
  17. Jiao F, Wen ZM, An SS (2011) Changes in soil properties across a chronosequence of vegetation restoration on the Loess Plateau of China. Catena 86:110–116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Kalhoro SA, Xu XX, Chen W, Hua R, Raza S, Ding K (2017) Effects of different land-use systems on soil aggregates: a case study of the Loess Plateau (Northern China). Sustainability 9:1349CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lal R (2015) Soil carbon sequestration and aggregation by cover cropping. J Soil Water Conserv 70:329–339CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Lange M, Eisenhauer N, Sierra CA, Bessler H, Engels C, Griffiths RI, Mellado-Vazquez PG, Malik AA, Roy J, Scheu S, Steinbeiss S, Thomson BC, Trumbore SE, Gleixner G (2015) Plant diversity increases soil microbial activity and soil carbon storage. Nat Commun 6:6707CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Leung AK, Garg A, Coo JL, Ng CWW, Hau BCH (2015) Effects of the roots of Cynodon dactylon and Schefflera heptaphylla on water infiltration rate and soil hydraulic conductivity. Hydrol Process 29:3342–3354CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Li Y, Jiao J, Wang Z, Cao B, Wei Y, Hu S (2016) Effects of revegetation on soil organic carbon storage and erosion-induced carbon loss under extreme rainstorms in the hill and gully region of the Loess Plateau. Int J Environ Res Public Health 13:456CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mamedov AI, Huang C, Aliev FA, Levy GJ (2016) Aggregate stability and water retention near saturation characteristics as affected by soil texture, aggregate size and polyacrylamide application. Land Degrad Dev 28:543–552CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Mchunu C, Chaplot V (2012) Land degradation impact on soil carbon losses through water erosion and CO2 emissions. Geoderma 177–178:72–79CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Neris J, Jimenez C, Fuentes J, Morillas G, Tejedor M (2012) Vegetation and land-use effects on soil properties and water infiltration of Andisols in Tenerife (Canary Islands, Spain). Catena 98:55–62CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Qin Y, Xin Z, Yu X, Xiao Y (2014) Influence of vegetation restoration on topsoil organic carbon in a small catchment of the loess hilly region, China. PLoS One 9:94489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Ren ZP, Zhu LJ, Wang B, Cheng SD (2016) Soil hydraulic conductivity as affected by vegetation restoration age on the Loess Plateau, China. J Arid Land 8:546–555CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Shwetha P, Varija K (2015) Soil water retention curve from saturated hydraulic conductivity for sandy loam and loamy sand textured soils. Aquat Proc 4:1142–1149CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Sihag P, Tiwari NK, Ranjan S (2017) Estimation and inter-comparison of infiltration models. Water Sci 31:34–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Srinivasan MP, Bhatia S, Shenoy K (2015) Vegetation–environment relationships in a South Asian tropical montane grassland ecosystem: restoration implications. Trop Ecol 56:201–217Google Scholar
  31. Tang FK, Cui M, Lu Q, Liu YG, Guo HY, Zhou JX (2015) Effects of vegetation restoration on the aggregate stability and distribution of aggregate-associated organic carbon in a typical karst gorge region. Solid Earth Discuss 7:2213–2242CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Tony P (2008) Conceptual framework for assessment and management of ecosystem impacts of climate change. Ecol Complex 5:329–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Wang Y, Fan JB, Cao LX, Liang Y (2016) Infiltration and runoff generation under various cropping patterns in the red soil region of China. Land Degrad Dev 27:83–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Yang F, Zhang GL, Yang JL, Li DC, Zhao YG, Liu F, Yang RM, Yang F (2014) Organic matter controls of soil water retention in an alpine grassland and its significance for hydrological processes. J Hydrol 519:3086–3093CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Yu MZ, Zhang LL, Xu XX, Feger KH, Wang YH, Liu WZ, Schwarzel K (2015) Impact of land-use changes on soil hydraulic properties of calcaric regosols on the Loess Plateau, NW China. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 178:486–498CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Zhang XP, Zhang L, McVicar TR, Van Niel TG, Li LT, Li R, Yang QK, Wei L (2008) Modelling the impact of afforestation on average annual streamflow in the Loess Plateau, China. Hydrol Process 22:1996–2004CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zhang YW, Deng L, Yan WM, Shangguan ZP (2016) Interaction of soil water storage dynamics and long-term natural vegetation succession on the Loess Plateau, China. Catena 137:52–60CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhao YG, Wu PT, Zhao SW, Feng H (2013) Variation of soil infiltrability across a 79-year chronosequence of naturally restored grassland on the Loess Plateau, China. J Hydrol 504:94–103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Zhao XN, Wu PT, Gao XD, Tian L, Li HC (2014) Changes of soil hydraulic properties under early-stage natural vegetation recovering on the Loess Plateau of China. Catena 113:386–391CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Zhao D, Xu MX, Liu GB, Ma LY, Zhang SM, Xiao TQ, Peng GY (2017) Effect of vegetation type on microstructure of soil aggregates on the Loess Plateau, China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 242:1–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zheng FL, He XB, Gao XT, Zhang C, Tang KL (2005) Effects of erosion patterns on nutrient loss following deforestation on the Loess Plateau of China. Agric Ecosyst Environ 108:85–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© International Consortium of Landscape and Ecological Engineering and Springer Japan KK, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Faculty of AgricultureLasbela University of Agriculture, Water and Marine SciencesUthalPakistan
  3. 3.School of Geography, Geomatics and PlanningJiangsu Normal UniversityXuzhouChina

Personalised recommendations