Soil erosion and sediment yield and their relationships with vegetation cover in upper stream of the Yellow River

W. Ouyang, F. Hao, A.K. Skidmore, A.G. Toxopeus

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Soil erosion is a significant concern when considering regional environmental protection, especially in the Yellow River Basin in China. This study evaluated the temporal-spatial interaction of land cover status with soil erosion characteristics in the Longliu Catchment of China, using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model. SWAT is a physical hydrological model which uses the RUSLE equation as a sediment algorithm. Considering the spatial and temporal scale of the relationship between soil erosion and sediment yield, simulations were undertaken at monthly and annual temporal scales and basin and sub-basin spatial scales. The corresponding temporal and spatial Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) information was summarized from MODIS data, which can integrate regional land cover and climatic features. The SWAT simulation revealed that the annual soil erosion and sediment yield showed similar spatial distribution patterns, but the monthly variation fluctuated significantly. The monthly basin soil erosion varied from almost no erosion load to 3.92 t/ha and the maximum monthly sediment yield was 47,540 tones. The inter-annual simulation focused on the spatial difference and relationship with the corresponding vegetation NDVI value for every sub-basin. It is concluded that, for this continental monsoon climate basin, the higher NDVI vegetation zones prevented sediment transport, but at the same time they also contributed considerable soil erosion. The monthly basin soil erosion and sediment yield both correlated with NDVI, and the determination coefficients of their exponential correlation model were 0.446 and 0.426, respectively. The relationships between soil erosion and sediment yield with vegetation NDVI indicated that the vegetation status has a significant impact on sediment formation and transport. The findings can be used to develop soil erosion conservation programs for the study area.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)396-403
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • rainfall simulation
  • slope gradient
  • model
  • conservation
  • plateau
  • systems
  • events
  • runoff
  • impact
  • spain

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