Rainfall-induced soil erosion is a major threat, especially in agricultural soils. In the Mediterranean belt, vineyards are affected by high soil loss rates, leading to land degradation. Plantation of new vines is carried out after deep ploughing, use of heavy machinery, wheel traffic, and trampling. Those works result in soil physical properties changes and contribute to enhanced runoff rates and increased soil erosion rates. The objective of this paper is to assess the impact of the plantation of vineyards on soil hydrological and erosional response under low frequency – high magnitude rainfall events, the ones that under the Mediterranean climatic conditions trigger extreme soil erosion rates. We determined time to ponding, Tp; time to runoff, Tr; time to runoff outlet, Tro; runoff rate, and soil loss under simulated rainfall (55 mm h−1, 1 h) at plot scale (0.25 m2) to characterize the runoff initiation and sediment detachment. In recent vine plantations (<1 year since plantation; R) compared to old ones (>50 years; O). Slope gradient, rock fragment cover, soil surface roughness, bulk density, soil organic matter content, soil water content and plant cover were determined. Plantation of new vineyards largely impacted runoff rates and soil erosion risk at plot scale in the short term. Tp, Tr and Tro were much shorter in R plots. Tr-Tp and Tro-Tr periods were used as connectivity indexes of water flow, and decreased to 77.5 and 33.2% in R plots compared to O plots. Runoff coefficients increased significantly from O (42.94%) to R plots (71.92%) and soil losses were approximately one order of magnitude lower (1.8 and 12.6 Mg ha−1 h−1 for O and R plots respectively). Soil surface roughness and bulk density are two key factors that determine the increase in connectivity of flows and sediments in recently planted vineyards. Our results confirm that plantation of new vineyards strongly contributes to runoff initiation and sediment detachment, and those findings confirms that soil erosion control strategies should be applied immediately after or during the plantation of vines.
- Rainfall simulation