Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1396–1407 | Cite as

Soil erosion of unpaved loess roads subjected to an extreme rainstorm event: a case study of the Jiuyuangou watershed on the Loess Plateau, China

  • Bo Yang
  • Wen-long WangEmail author
  • Ming-ming Guo
  • Wen-zhao Guo
  • Wen-xin Wang
  • Hong-liang Kang
  • Man Zhao
  • Zhuo-xin Chen


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 words

Road erosion “7.26” extreme rainstorms Loess Plateau Gully development 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



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.


  1. Arnaez J, Larrea V, Ortigosa L (2003) Surface runoff and soil erosion on unpaved forest roads from rainfall simulation tests in northeastern Spain. Catena 57: 1–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bilby RE, Sullivan K, Duncan SH (1989) The generation and fate of road-surface sediment in forested watersheds in southwestern Washington. Forest Science 35(2): 453–468. Google Scholar
  3. Bai XD, Dang WQ, Ai SZ (2009) Study on the safety evaluation method of dam system project in Jiuyuangou watershed. Journal of Water Resources& Water Engineering 20(1): 54–57. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  4. Brakensiek DL, Rawls WJ (1994) Soil containing rock fragments: effects on infiltration. Catena 23(1–2): 99–110. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Cao SX, Li C, Gao WS, et al. (2006) Impact of planting grass on terrene roads to avoid soil erosion. Landscape and Urban Planning 78: 205–216. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cao LX, Zhang KL, Zhang W (2009) Detachment of road surface soil by flowing water. Catena 76: 155–162. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Carlos E, Ramos S (2010) Sediment production from unpaved roads in a sub-tropical dry setting — Southwestern Puerto Rico. Catena 82: 146–158. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Cao LX, Zhang KL, Zhang ZD (2008) Road distribution and controlling factors in watershed of the Loess Plateau. Geographical Research 27(6): 1271–1280. Google Scholar
  9. Cao LX, Zhang KL, Yin L (2014) Factors affecting rill erosion of unpaved loess roads in China. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms 39(13): 1812–1821. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dong J, Zhang K, Guo Z (2012) Runoff and soil erosion from highway construction spoil deposits: A rainfall simulation study. Transportation Research Part D 17(1): 8–14. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Foster GR (1986) Understanding ephemeral gully erosion. Lal R (2000) Physical management of soils of the tropics: priorities for the 21st century. Soil Science 165(3): 191–207. Google Scholar
  12. Foltz RB, Copeland NS, Elliot WJ (2009) Reopening abandoned forest roads in northern Idaho, USA: Quantification of runoff, sediment concentration, infiltration, and interrill erosion parameters. Journal of Environmental Management 90: 2542–2550. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Frankl A, Poesen J, Scholiers N, et al. (2013) Factors controlling the morphology and volume (V) — length (L) relations of permanent gullies in the Northern Ethiopian Highlands. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms 38(14): 1672–1684. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Figueiredo TD, Poesen J (1998) Effects of surface rock fragment characteristics on interrill runoff and erosion of a silty loam soil. Soil & Tillage Research 46(1–2): 81–95. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Jacky C, Simon M, Peter F, et al. (2005) Sediment concentration changes in runoff pathways from a forest road network and the resultant spatial pattern of catchment connectivity. Geomorphology 68(3): 257–268. Google Scholar
  16. Lane PN, Sheridan GJ (2002) Impact of an unsealed forest road stream crossing: water quality and sediment sources. Hydrolprocess 16: 2599–2612. Google Scholar
  17. Liu BY, Liu XY, Yang QK, et al. (2017) Investigation report on comprehensive rainfall resistance of soil and water loss in small watersheds of the Loess Plateau. Bulletin of Soil and Water Conservation 37(4): 2, 349–350. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  18. Luo XL (1956) Dividing the geomorphic types of the ditch and valley in the loess areas of weastern Shanxi, northern Shanxi, and eastern Gansu. Acta Geographica Sinica(3): 201–222. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. Luce CH, Black TA (2001) Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Erosion from Forest Roads. In influence of urban and forest land uses on the hydrologic- geomorphic responses of watershed, edited by M.S. Wigmosta and S.J. Burges. Water Resources Mono-graphs, American Geophysical Union, Washington, D.C.. pp 165–178.Google Scholar
  20. Luce CH, Black TA (1999) Sediment unpaved from forest roads in western Oregon. Water Resources Research 35(8): 2561–2570.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Martínez-Zavala L, Jordán A (2010) Effect of rock fragment cover on interrill soil erosion from bare soils in Western Andalusia, Spain. Soil Use & Management 24(1): 108–117. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Megahan WF, Wilson M, Monsen SB (2001) Sediment Production From Granitic Cutslopes on Forest Roads in Idaho, USA. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms 26(2): 153–163.<153::aidesp172>;2-0CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Macdonald LH, Sampson RW, Anderson DM (2015) Runoff and road erosion at the plot and road segment scales, St. John, US Virgin Islands. Earth Surface Processes & Landforms 26(3): 251–272.;2-X CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Sidle RC, Sasaki S, Otsuki M, et al. (2004) Sediment pathways in a tropical forest: effects of logging roads and skid trails. Hydrological Processes 18: 703–720. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Shi ZH, Fang NF, Li L, et al. (2010) Modeling erosion processes on unpaved roads using KINEROS2. Geographical Research 29(3): 408–415. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  26. Tian FX, Wang ZL, Zhegn SQ, et al. (2007) Experiment modeling of soil erosion processes on loess roads based on simulated experiment. Bulltin of Soil and Water Conservation 27(2): 1–9. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  27. Wu YQ, Liu BY (2000) Gully, Gully erosion and prediction. Journal of Basic Science and Engineering 8(2): 134–142. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  28. Wang X, Li Z, Cai C, et al. (2012) Effects of rock fragment cover on hydrological response and soil loss from Regosols in a semi-humid environment in South-West China. Geomorphology 151–152(1): 234–242. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Wemple BC, Jones JA, Grant GE (2010) Channel Network Extension by Logging Roads in Two Basins, Western Cascades, Oregon. Jawra Journal of the American Water Resources Association 32(6): 1195–1207. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Wang DX, Hou SZ, Yang JS, et al. (2017) Analysis of the sediment source of flood formed by July 26 rainstorm in the wuding river basin. Yellow River 39(12): 18–21. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  31. Yang CC. (2008) study on runoff and sediment characteristics from unpaved road in three gorges reservoir area. Master Degree Thesis. Huazhong Agriculture University, China.Google Scholar
  32. Ziegler AD, Giambelluca TW (1997) Importance of rural roads as source areas for runoff in mountainous areas of northern Thailand. Journal of Hydrology 196: 204–229. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Zheng SQ, Huo JL, Li Y (2004) Road erosion and prevention of hillside in the Loess Plateau. Bulltin of Soil and Water Conservation 24(1): 46–48. (In Chinese) Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water ConservationNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Institute of Soil and Water ConservationChinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water ResourcesYanglingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Ecological Restoration of Mining Area in Northern Shaanxi ProvinceYulin UniversityYulinChina
  4. 4.Yellow River Engineering Consulting Co., LtdZhengzhouChina

Personalised recommendations