Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 8, Issue 4, pp 564–570 | Cite as

The suitability of using leaf area index to quantify soil loss under vegetation cover

  • Wentai Zhang
  • Dongsheng YuEmail author
  • Xuezheng Shi
  • Hongjie Wang
  • Zhujun Gu
  • Xiangyan Zhang
  • Manzhi Tan


Soil erosion by water under forest cover is a serious problem in southern China. A comparative study was carried out on the use of leaf area index (LAI) and vegetation fractional coverage (VFC) in quantifying soil loss under vegetation cover. Five types of vegetation with varied LAI and VFC under field conditions were exposed to two rainfall rates (40 mm h−1 and 54 mm h−1) using a portable rainfall simulator. Runoff rate, sediment concentration and soil loss rate were measured at relatively runoff stable state. Significant negative exponential relationship (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.83) and linear relationship (p < 0.05, R2 = 0.84) were obtained between LAI and sediment concentration, while no significant relationship existed between VFC and sediment concentration. The mechanism by which vegetation canopy prevents soil loss was by reducing rainfall kinetic energy and sediment concentration. LAI could better quantify such a role than VFC. However, neither LAI nor VFC could explain runoff rate or soil loss rate. Caution must be taken when using LAI to quantify the role of certain vegetation in soil and water conservation.


Leaf area index (LAI) Runoff steady state Sediment concentration Simulated rainfall 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams JE, Arkin GF (1977) Light interception method for measuring row crop ground cover. Soil Science Society of America Journal 41: 789–792.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. De Jong SM, Jetten VG (2007) Estimating spatial patterns of rainfall interception from remotely sensed vegetation indices and spectral mixture analysis. International Journal of Geographical Information Science 21: 529–545.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. De Roo APJ, Wesseling CG, Ritsema CJ (1996) LISEM: A singleevent physically based hydrological and soil erosion model for drainage basins. I: Theory, input and output. Hydological Processes 10: 1107–1117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fleskens L, Stroosnijder L (2007) Is soil erosion in olive groves as bad as often claimed? Geoderma 141: 260–271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Foot K, Morgan RPC (2005) The role of leaf inclination, leaf orientation and plant canopy architecture in soil particle detachment by raindrops. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 30: 1509–1520.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gertner G, Wang G, Fang S, Anderson AB (2002) Mapping and uncertainty of predictions based on multiple primary variables from joint co-simulation with landsat TM image and polynomial regression. Remote Sensing of Environment 83: 498–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Gómez JA, Giráldez JV, Fereres E (2001) Rainfall interception by olive trees in relation to leaf area. Agricultural Water Management 49: 65–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Gyssels G, Poesen J, Bochet E, Li Y (2005) Impact of plant roots on the resistance of soils to erosion by water: A review. Progress in Physical Geography 29: 189–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Kinnell PIA (2000). The effect of slope length on sediment concentrations associated with side-slope erosion. Soil Science Society of America Journal 64: 1004–1008.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Klima K, Wiśniowska-Kielian B (2006) Anti-erosion effectiveness of selected crops and the relation to leaf area index (LAI). Plant Soil and Environment 52: 35–40.Google Scholar
  11. Liang Y, Zhang B, Pan X, Shi D (2008) Current status and comprehensive control strategies of soil erosion for hilly region in the southern China. Science of Soil and Water Conservation 6: 22–27 (In Chinese).Google Scholar
  12. Lu X, Higgitt DL (1998) Recent changes of sediment yield in the upper Yangtze, China. Environmental Management 22: 697–709.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Lu X, Higgitt DL (1999) Sediment yield variability in the upper Yangtze, China. Earth Surface Processes and Landforms 24: 1077–1093.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. MartÍnez-Zavala L, Jordán A, Bellinfante N (2008) Seasonal variability of runoff and soil loss on forest road backslopes under simulated rainfall. Catena 74: 73–79.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Pan C, Shangguan Z (2006) Runoff hydraulic characteristics and sediment generation in sloped grassplots under simulated rainfall conditions. Journal of Hydrology 331: 178–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Panicker GK, Tiwari SC, Bunch J, Al-Humadi AH, Sims C, Huam LC, Igbokwe P, Vadhwa OP, Johnson A, Harness J, Collins TE, Weesies GA, Stott DE (2004) Research on biomass development and residue decomposition of horticultural crops for erosion prediction models: Philosophy and methodology of data collection. Acta Horticulturae 638: 53–58.Google Scholar
  17. Purevdorj Ts, Tateishi R, Ishiyama T, Honda Y (1998) Relationships between percent vegetation cover and vegetation indices. International Journal of Remote Sensing 19: 3519–3535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Shi X, Liang Y, Gong Z (2001) Biological practices and soil conservation in southern China. Journal of Crop Production 8: 41–48.Google Scholar
  19. Shi X, Wang K, Warner ED, Yu D, Wang H, Yang R, Liang Y, Shi D (2008). Relationship between soil erosion and distance to roadways in undeveloped areas of China. Catena 72: 305–313.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Shi X, Wang H, Yu D, Weindorf DC, Cheng X, Pan X, Sun W, Chen J (2009) Potential for soil carbon sequestration of eroded areas in subtropical China. Soil and Tillage Research 105: 322–327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. State Forestry Administration of China (2007) China forestry statistical yearbook 2006 (In Chinese). China Forestry Press. Beijing.Google Scholar
  22. Stoner ER, Baumgardner MF, Swain PH (1976) Determining density of maize canopy from digitized photographic data. Agronomy Journal 68: 55–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Thorp J (1936). Geography of the soils of China. National Geological Survey of China. Nanjing.Google Scholar
  24. Van Dijk AIJM, Bruijnzeel LA (2001) Modelling rainfall interception by vegetation of variable density using an adapted analytical model. Part 1. model description. Journal of Hydrology 247: 230–238.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Vanacker V, Von Blanckenburg F, Govers G, Molina A, Poesen J, Deckers J, Kubik P (2007) Restoring dense vegetation can slow mountain erosion to near natural benchmark levels. Geology 35: 303–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Wang K, Wang H, Shi X, Weindorf DC, Yu D, Liang Y, Shi D (2008) Landscape analysis of dynamic soil erosion in subtropical China: A case study in Xingguo county, Jiangxi province. Soil and Tillage Research 105: 313–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Wischmeier WH, Smith DD (1978) Predicting rainfall erosion losses: A guide to conservation planning. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Handbook No.537. Washington, DC.Google Scholar
  28. Xi C (1991). Better land use and reclamation of the red soil hilly region of southern China. GeoJournal 20: 365–368.Google Scholar
  29. Yang D, Kanae S, Oki T, Koike T, Musiake K (2003) Global potential soil erosion with reference to land use and climate changes. Hydological Processes 17: 2913–2928.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Yang F, Shi Z, Cai C, Li Z (2010) Wetting rate and clay content effects on interrill erosion in Ultisols of southeastern China. Pedosphere 20: 129–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Yang W, Wang Z, Sui G, Ding G (2008) Quantitative determination of red-soil erosion by an Eu tracer method. Soil and Tillage Research 101: 52–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Yoshino K, Ishioka Y (2005) Guidelines for soil conservation towards integrated basin management for sustainable development: A new approach based on the assessment of soil loss risk using remote sensing and GIS. Paddy and Water Environment 3: 235–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Yu D, Shi X, Weindorf DC (2006) Relationships between permeability and erodibility of cultivated Acrisols and Cambisols in subtropical China. Pedosphere 16: 304–311.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Yu D, Shi X, Wang H, Zhang X, Weindorf DC (2008). Function of soils in regulating rainwater in southern China: Impacts of land uses and soils. Pedosphere 18: 717–730.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Zhang W (2010) Using leaf area index (LAI) to quantitatively express the effect of vegetation in preventing soil water erosion. Ph.D. Thesis. Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences. Beijing, China (In Chinese).Google Scholar
  36. Zhang W, Yu D, Shi X, Tan M, Liu L (2010) Variation of sediment concentration and its drivers under different soil management systems. Pedosphere 20: 578–585.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Zhang X, Drake N, Wainwright J (2002) Scaling land surface parameters for global-scale soil erosion estimation. Water Resources Research 38: 1180–1189.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhang Y, Liu B, Zhang Q, Xie Y (2003) Effect of different vegetation types on soil erosion by water. Acta Botanica Sinica 45: 1204–1209.Google Scholar
  39. Zhao Q (2006) Some considerations for present soil and water conservation and ecology security of South China. Bulletin of Soil and Water Conservation 26: 1–8 (In Chinese).Google Scholar
  40. Zheng F, Merrill SD, Huang C, Tanaka DL, Darboux F, Liebig MA, Halvorson AD (2004) Runoff, soil erosion, and erodibility of conservation reserve program land under crop and hay production. Soil Science Society of America Journal 68: 1332–1341.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Zhou G, Morris JD, Yan J, Yu Z, Peng S (2002) Hydrological impacts of reafforestation with eucalyptus and indigenous species: A case study in southern China. Forest Ecology and Management 167: 209–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Zhou P, Luukkanen O, Tokola T Nieminen J (2008) Effect of vegetation cover on soil erosion in a mountainous watershed. Catena 75: 319–325.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wentai Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Dongsheng Yu
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xuezheng Shi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Hongjie Wang
    • 1
  • Zhujun Gu
    • 3
  • Xiangyan Zhang
    • 1
  • Manzhi Tan
    • 1
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil and Sustainable Agriculture, Institute of Soil ScienceChinese Academy of SciencesNanjingChina
  2. 2.Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.School of Bio-Chemical and Environmental EngineeringNanjing Xiaozhuang UniversityNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations