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Chen N.,Nanjing University | Ma T.,Heilongjiang Provincial Research Institute of Surveying and Mapping | Zhang X.,Northwest University, China
Catena | Year: 2016

Understanding the responses of soil erosion processes to land cover changes would benefit catchment ecological management. Landsat thematic mapper images in 1987, 1995, and 2007 were collected to obtain the historical normalized difference vegetation index and land cover data of the Beiluo River basin, one of the catchments in the Loess Plateau. The sediment load data of five subcatchments were collected in the corresponding periods. A set of location-weighted landscape contrast indices was used to analyze the effect of land cover changes on soil erosion processes, as specified by the following indices: slope gradient, flow path length, relative altitude, and relative distance. Results showed that vegetation cover (VC) notably increased from 41.12% to 63.43% in the basin from 1987 to 2007. The increased VC was mainly concentrated in the hilly-gully area from 18.40% in 1987 and 20.21% in 1995 to 41.65% in 2007. The mean annual sediment load modulus in the region over the same periods significantly decreased by 90%. All the indices for each subcatchment exhibited a decreasing trend. The change extent of the indices revealed a significantly positive correlation with that of sediment load modulus. Slope gradient and flow path length were the most important influential factors on soil erosion. Results implied that the improvement in land cover in the Beiluo River basin from 1987 to 2007 led to sediment entrapment in the sink area and changed the soil erosion processes, especially the slope gradient and flow length of the soil erosion source area. This study contributed to improving catchment ecological management and evaluating erosion control practices in the Loess Plateau. © 2015 Elsevier B.V.

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