Date: 13 Aug 2011

Effect of land use and land cover change on soil erosion and the spatio-temporal variation in Liupan Mountain Region, southern Ningxia, China

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Abstract

The Liupan Mountains are located in the southern Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region of China, that forms an important divide between landforms and biogeographic regions. The populated part of the Liupan Mountain Region has suffered tremendous ecological damage over time due to population pressure, excessive demand and inappropriate use of agricultural land resources. To present the relationship between land use/cover change and spatio-temporal variation of soil erosion, data sets of land use between the late 1980s and 2000 were obtained from Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM) imagery, and spatial models were used to characterize landscape and soil erosion conditions. Also, soil erosion in response to land use and land cover change were quantified and analyzed using data from geographical information systems and remote sensing. Soil erosion by water was the dominant mode of soil loss, while soil erosion by wind was only present on a relatively small area. The degree of soil erosion was classified into five severity classes: slight, light, moderate, severe, and very severe. Soil erosion in the Liupan Mountain Region increased between the late 1980s and 2000, both in terms of acreage and severity. Moderate, severe, and very severe eroded areas accounted for 54.86% of the total land area. The lightly eroded area decreased, while the moderately eroded area increased by 368817 ha (22%) followed by severe erosion with 146552 ha (8.8%), and very severe erosion by 97067.6 ha (5.8%). Soil loss on sloping cropland increased with slope gradients. About 90% of the cropland was located on slopes less than 15°. Most of the increase in soil erosion on cropland was due to conversion of steep slopes to cropland and degradation of grassland and increased activities. Soil erosion was severe on grassland with a moderate or low grass cover and on dry land. Human activities, cultivation on steep slopes, and overgrazing of pastures were the main reasons for the increase in erosion severity.