Soil erosion of unpaved loess roads subjected to an extreme rainstorm event: a case study of the Jiuyuangou watershed on the Loess Plateau, China
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Rainfall can cause serious soil loss in the Loess Plateau hilly and gully region, but little focus has been placed on the extreme rainstorm effects on unpaved loess road soil erosion. A field survey method was used to investigate the erosional effects of the “7.26” heavy rainfall event on unpaved loess roads in the Jiuyuangou watershed of the Loess Plateau, China. The results showed that the average and maximum widths of the eroded gullies that formed on the unpaved roads were 0.65–1.48 m and 1.00–3.60 m, respectively. The average and maximum depths of the eroded gullies were 0.42–1.13 m and 0.75–4.30 m, respectively. The average width-to-depth ratio was 1.31, indicating that the widening effect was greater than the downcutting effect in the eroded gullies. In addition, the gully density ranged from 0.07 to 0.29 m m−2, and the road surface dissection degree ranged from 0.03 to 0.41 km2 km−2. Eroded gullies generally developed at the slope toe of the cut bank side. The average eroded gully width and depth at turns in the road were 1.47–2.64 times and 1.30–3.47 times greater, respectively, than those in other road sections. The road erosion modulus increased from the upper section to the lower section of the roads. The average road erosion modulus of the study catchment was 235,000 t km−2. Turns in the road were associated with collapses, sinkholes and other gravitational erosion phenomena. The amount of road erosion under extreme rainfall conditions is mainly related to the interactions among road length, width, slope and soil bulk density. Our results provide a useful reference for developing further measures for preventing road erosion on the Loess Plateau.
Key wordsRoad erosion “7.26” extreme rainstorms Loess Plateau Gully development
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The research reported in this manuscript is funded by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0501604) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40771127). We thank the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Water Resources for their technical assistance.
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