Journal of Soils and Sediments

, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 729–740 | Cite as

Effects of cover on soil particle and associated soil nutrient redistribution on slopes under rainfall simulation

  • Jiamei Sun
  • Chi-hua Huang
  • Guannan Han
  • Yafeng WangEmail author
Soils, Sec 2 • Global Change, Environ Risk Assess, Sustainable Land Use • Research Article



Sediment detachment, transportation, and deposition occurred alternately along slope during erosion process. Nutrients were mobilized with sediment movement. In this research, nutrients and fractal characteristics were analyzed on both bare and covered slopes. Then, combined with photogrammetry technique, soil elevation and associated soil nutrient redistribution on slope positions during rainfall event were explored.

Materials and methods

Combined with simulated rainfall method, bare and covered slopes experienced erosion process. Fractal theory was used to analyze sediment particle size distribution. Photogrammetry technique was applied to locate sediment redistribution. Soil and runoff were sampled and analyzed to obtain nutrient variations.

Results and discussion

Covered slope yielded less runoff and sediment in comparison to bare slope. Compared to bare slope, covered slope had lower total nitrogen (TN) (p = 4.8 × 10−24) and total phosphorus (TP) (p = 2.9 × 10−23) concentration but higher total organic carbon (TOC) concentration (p = 9.6 × 10−10). There was no significant difference between inorganic carbon (IC) concentrations on bare slope and covered slope (p = 0.051). Fractal dimensions ranged from 2.16 to 2.37 on bare slope, and they were greater than those from covered slope (ranged from 1.63 to 2.26). Linear and exponential relationships were established between fractal dimension and TOC, IC, TN, and TP concentrations. TOC concentration and IC concentration were in negative correlations with fractal dimension, while TN concentration and TP concentration were in positive correlations with fractal dimension. Mean elevation change analyzed from photogrammetry was − 4.9 and − 1.2 mm on bare slope and covered slope, respectively. Upslope sections were main elevation and nutrient loss areas. 9.8 mm soil lost on bare slope and 2.8 mm on covered slope. TOC, IC, and TP concentrations decreased on upper position, while TN increased. Three sections in middle area had dramatic erosion variations and decreased TOC. Elevation increased on covered slope in F3 section. On downslopes, IC content increased whereas TOC concentration increased. TN and TP content decreased in most sections on the bare slope, while the situation was changed on the filter covered slope, and TN and TP accumulated on the middle slope.


Cover reduced runoff and sediment yield rates, and it also reduced elevation decrease degree. There was significant sediment deposition in the middle slope. Cover had functions in reducing TOC loss degree and preventing TN and TP loss out from the slope, but there was no significant difference between IC concentrations on bare slope and covered slope.


Cover Erosion process Nutrition redistribution Photogrammetry Rainfall simulation Soil fractal dimension 



We thank Brenda Hofmann, Rhonda Graef, and Amber Crumley for their excellent technical assistance and the USDA-ARS National Soil Erosion Research Laboratory.

Funding information

This publication is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41671271; 41571130083) and the National Key Research and Development Plan (2016YFC0501602) project.


  1. Abd Elbasit MA, Anyoji H, Yasuda H, Yamamoto S (2009) Potential of low cost close-range photogrammetry system in soil microtopography quantification. Hydrol Process 23:1408–1417CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Adekalu KO, Olorunfemi IA, Osunbitan JA (2007) Grass mulching effect on infiltration, surface runoff and soil loss of three agricultural soils in Nigeria. Bioresour Technol 98:912–917CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Ahmed J, Al-Attar H, Arfat YA (2016) Effect of particle size on compositional, functional, pasting and rheological properties of commercial water chestnut flour. Food Hydrocolloid 52:888–895CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. An J, Zheng F, Lu J, Li G (2012) Investigating the role of raindrop impact on hydrodynamic mechanism of soil erosion under simulated rainfall conditions. Soil Sci 177:517–526CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Arnáez J, Larrea V, Ortigosa L (2004) Surface runoff and soil erosion on unpaved forest roads from rainfall simulation tests in northeastern Spain. Catena 57:1–14CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Aucelli PC, Massimo C, Marta DS, Maurizio DM, Lorenzo D, Carmen MR, Francesca V (2016) Multi-temporal digital photogrammetric analysis for quantitative assessment of soil erosion rates in the Landola catchment of the Upper Orcia Valley (Tuscany, Italy). Land Degrad Dev 27:1075–1092CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Barral MT, Buján E, Devesa R, Iglesias ML, Velasco-Molina M (2007) Comparison of the structural stability of pasture and cultivated soils. Sci Total Environ 378:174–178CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Fiener P, Dlugoß V, Van Oost K (2015) Erosion-induced carbon redistribution, burial and mineralisation—is the episodic nature of erosion processes important? Catena 133:282–292CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Gelaw AM, Singh BR, Lal R (2015) Organic carbon and nitrogen associated with soil aggregates and particle sizes under different land uses in Tigray, Northern Ethiopia. Land Degrad Dev 26:690–700CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Gessesse B, Bewket W, Bräuning A (2015) Model-based characterization and monitoring of runoff and soil erosion in response to land use/land cover changes in the Modjo watershed, Ethiopia. Land Degrad Dev 26:711–724CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Ghadiri H, Rose CW (1991) Sorbed chemical transport in overland flow: I. A nutrient and pesticide enrichment mechanism. J Environ Qual 20:628–633CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Greene RSB, Hairsine PB (2004) Elementary processes of soil–water infiltration and thresholds in soil surface dynamics: a review. Earth Surf Proc Land 29:1077–1091CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Haile SG, Nair PK, Nair VD (2008) Carbon storage of different soil-size fractions in Florida silvopastoral systems. J Environ Qual 37:1789–1797CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Hemelryck HV, Fiener P, Oost KV, Govers G, Merckx R (2010) The effect of soil redistribution on soil organic carbon: an experimental study. Biogeosciences 7:3971–3986CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Kuhn NJ, Hoffmann T, Schwanghart W, Dotterweich M (2009) Agricultural soil erosion and global carbon cycle: controversy over? Earth Surf Proc Land 34:1033–1038Google Scholar
  16. Lal R, Griffin M, Apt J, Lave L, Morgan MG (2004) Managing soil carbon. Science 304:393–393CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Liu X, Zhang GC, Heathman GC, Wang YQ, Huang CH (2009) Fractal features of soil particle-size distribution as affected by plant communities in the forested region of Mountain Yimeng, China. Geoderma 154:123–130CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Liu Y, Tao Y, Wan KY, Zhang GS, Liu DB, Xiong GY, Chen F (2012) Runoff and nutrient losses in citrus orchards on sloping land subjected to different surface mulching practices in the Danjiangkou Reservoir area of China. Agric Water Manag 110:34–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Lobe I, Amelung W, Du Preez CC (2001) Losses of carbon and nitrogen with prolonged arable cropping from sandy soils of the South African Highveld. Eur J Soil Sci 52:93–101CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Ma RM, Li ZX, Cai CF, Wang JG (2014) The dynamic response of splash erosion to aggregate mechanical breakdown through rainfall simulation events in Ultisols. Catena 121:279–287CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Mandelbrot BB (1982) The fractal geometry of nature. WH Freeman, New YorkGoogle Scholar
  22. Martinez-Mena M, Rogel JA, Albaladejo J, Castillo VM (2000) Influence of vegetal cover on sediment particle size distribution in natural rainfall conditions in a semiarid environment. Catena 38:175–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Mayorga E, Aufdenkampe AK, Masiello CA, Krusche AV, Hedges JI, Quay PD, Richey JE, Brown TA (2005) Young organic matter as a source of carbon dioxide outgassing from Amazonian rivers. Nature 436:538–541CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. McCorkle EP, Berhe AA, Hunsaker CT, Johnson DW, McFarlane KJ, Fogel ML, Hart SC (2016) Tracing the source of soil organic matter eroded from temperate forest catchments using carbon and nitrogen isotopes. Chem Geol 445:172–184CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. McIntyre DS (1958) Soil splash and the formation of surface crusts by raindrop impact. Soil Sci 85:261–266CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Meybeck M (1982) Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus transport by world rivers. Am J Sci 282:401–450CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Nadeu E, de Vente J, Martínez-Mena M, Boix-Fayos C (2011) Exploring particle size distribution and organic carbon pools mobilized by different erosion processes at the catchment scale. J Soils Sediments 11:667–678CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Nouwakpo S, Huang C (2012) The role of subsurface hydrology in soil erosion and channel network development on a laboratory hillslope. Soil Sci Soc Am J 76:1197–1211CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Nouwakpo S, Weltz MA, McGwire K (2016) Assessing the performance of structure-from-motion photogrammetry and terrestrial LiDAR for reconstructing soil surface microtopography of naturally vegetated plots. Earth Surf Proc Land 41:308–322CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Nyssen J, Poesen J, Moeyersons J, Haile M, Deckers J (2008) Dynamics of soil erosion rates and controlling factors in the northern Ethiopian highlands—towards a sediment budget. Earth Surf Proc Land 33:695–711CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Parfitt RL, Baisden WT, Ross CW, Rosser BJ, Schipper LA, Barry B (2013) Influence of erosion and deposition on carbon and nitrogen accumulation in resampled steepland soils under pasture in New Zealand. Geoderma 192:154–159CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Peng DL, Xu Q, Dong XJ, Ju QZ, Qi X, Tao YQ (2017) Application of unmanned aerial vehicles low-altitude photogrammetry in investigation and evaluation of loess landslide. Adv Earth Sci 32:319–330Google Scholar
  33. Persson BNJ (2014) On the fractal dimension of rough surfaces. Tribol Lett 54:99–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Qin C, Zheng FL, Wells RR, Xu XM, Wang B, Zhong KY (2018) A laboratory study of channel sidewall expansion in upland concentrated flows. Soil Till Res 178:22–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Quinton JN, Govers G, Van Oost K, Bardgett RD (2010) The impact of agricultural soil erosion on biogeochemical cycling. Nat Geosci 3:311–314CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sainju UM, Caesar-TonThat T, Jabro JD (2009) Carbon and nitrogen fractions in dryland soil aggregates affected by long-term tillage and cropping sequence. Soil Sci Soc Am J 73:1488–1495CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Schiettecatte W, Gabriels D, Cornelis WM, Hofman G (2008) Enrichment of organic carbon in sediment transport by interrill and rill erosion processes. Soil Sci Soc Am J 72:50–55CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Smith MW, Vericat D (2015) From experimental plots to experimental landscapes: topography, erosion and deposition in sub-humid badlands from structure-from-motion photogrammetry. Earth Surf Proc Land 40:1656–1671CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Stacy EM, Hart SC, Hunsaker CT, Johnson DW, Berhe AA (2015) Soil carbon and nitrogen erosion in forested catchments: implications for erosion-induced terrestrial carbon sequestration. Biogeosciences 12:4861–4874CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Su YZ, Zhao HL, Zhao WZ, Zhang TH (2004) Fractal features of soil particle size distribution and the implication for indicating desertification. Geoderma 122:43–49CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Turcotte DL (1986) Fractals and fragmentation. J Geophys Res 91:1921–1926CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Uri ND (2000) Conservation practices in us agriculture and their implication for global climate change. Sci Total Environ 256:23–38CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Vaezi AR, Abbasi M, Keesstra S, Cerdà A (2017a) Assessment of soil particle erodibility and sediment trapping using check dams in small semi-arid catchments. Catena 157:227–240CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Vaezi AR, Ahmadi M, Cerdà A (2017b) Contribution of raindrop impact to the change of soil physical properties and water erosion under semi-arid rainfalls. Sci Total Environ 583:382–392CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Xu G, Li Z, Li P (2013) Fractal features of soil particle-size distribution and total soil nitrogen distribution in a typical watershed in the source area of the middle Dan River, China. Catena 101:17–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiamei Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Chi-hua Huang
    • 2
  • Guannan Han
    • 3
  • Yafeng Wang
    • 1
    • 4
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Urban and Regional Ecology, Research Center for Eco-Environmental SciencesCASBeijingChina
  2. 2.National Soil Erosion Research LaboratoryUSDA-ARSWest LafayetteUSA
  3. 3.Norendar International Ltd.HebeiChina
  4. 4.Institute of Tibetan Plateau ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations