Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 1, pp 467–477 | Cite as

Effects of sheet and rill erosion on soil aggregates and organic carbon losses for a Mollisol hillslope under rainfall simulation

  • Yiliang Jiang
  • Fenli ZhengEmail author
  • Leilei Wen
  • Hai-ou Shen
Sediments, Sec 3 • Hillslope and River Basin Sediment Dynamics • Research Article



Characterizations of soil aggregates and soil organic carbon (SOC) losses affected by different water erosion patterns at the hillslope scale are poorly understood. Therefore, the objective of this study was to quantify how sheet and rill erosion affect soil aggregates and soil organic carbon losses for a Mollisol hillslope in Northeast China under indoor simulated rainfall.

Materials and methods

The soil used in this study was a Mollisol (USDA Taxonomy), collected from a maize field (0–20 cm depth) in Northeast China. A soil pan with dimensions 8 m long, 1.5 m wide and 0.6 m deep was subjected to rainfall intensities of 50 and 100 mm h−1. The experimental treatments included sheet erosion dominated (SED) and rill erosion dominated (RED) treatments. Runoff with sediment samples was collected during each experimental run, and then the samples were separated into six aggregate fractions (0–0.25, 0.25–0.5, 0.5–1, 1–2, 2–5, > 5 mm) to determine the soil aggregate and SOC losses.

Results and discussion

At rainfall intensities of 50 and 100 mm h−1, soil losses from the RED treatment were 1.4 and 3.5 times higher than those from the SED treatment, and SOC losses were 1.7 and 3.8 times greater than those from the SED treatment, respectively. However, the SOC enrichment ratio in sediment from the SED treatment was 1.15 on average and higher than that from the RED treatment. Furthermore, the loss of < 0.25 mm aggregates occupied 41.1 to 73.1% of the total sediment aggregates for the SED treatment, whereas the loss of > 0.25 mm aggregates occupied 53.2 to 67.3% of the total sediment aggregates for the RED treatment. For the organic carbon loss among the six aggregate fractions, the loss of 0–0.25 mm aggregate organic carbon dominated for both treatments. When rainfall intensity increased from 50 to 100 mm h−1, aggregate organic carbon loss increased from 1.04 to 5.87 times for six aggregate fractions under the SED treatment, whereas the loss increased from 3.82 to 27.84 times for six aggregate fractions under the RED treatment.


This study highlights the effects of sheet and rill erosion on soil and carbon losses at the hillslope scale, and further study should quantify the effects of erosion patterns on SOC loss at a larger scale to accurately estimate agricultural ecosystem carbon flux.


Enrichment ratio Mollisol of Northeast China Rill erosion Sheet erosion Soil aggregate Soil organic carbon 



We appreciate the suggestions of the anonymous reviewers and the editor.

Funding information

This study was funded by the National Key R&D Program of China (Grant number 2016YFE0202900), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant No. 41571263).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming in the Loess PlateauNorthwest A & F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, CAS & MWRYanglingPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.College of Resources and EnvironmentNorthwest A & F UniversityYanglingPeople’s Republic of China

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