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This article in SSSAJ

  1. Vol. 61 No. 4, p. 1116-1121
    Received: Mar 26, 1996

    * Corresponding author(s): victor@natura.cebas.csic.es
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Runoff and Soil Loss Response to Vegetation Removal in a Semiarid Environment

  1. V. M. Castillo ,
  2. M. Martinez-Mena and
  3. J. Albaladejo
  1. Department of Soil and Water Conservation, CEBAS-CSIC, P.O. Box 4195, E30080-Murcia, Spain



The removal of vegetation is the main cause of soil degradation in semiarid areas. We hypothesized that the changes in soil properties induced by vegetation removal modified the runoff and soil erosion response in a semiarid area of Spain. To test this, two plots (15 by 5 m) were installed on a 23% slope on a Lithic Haploxeroll. Vegetation was removed by clipping from one of the plots (Plot D) and the changes in surface runoff and soil loss were compared with an undisturbed control plot (Plot N) from 1989 to 1993. Total runoff was significantly greater in Plot D (48.8 mm) than in Plot N (34.9 mm). Runoff ratios between the disturbed and natural plots increased with time from 1.4:1 in 1990 to 2.5:1 in 1993. Vegetation removal increased the soil losses in Plot D (150.2 g m−2) by 127% compared with those in Plot N (66.3 g m−2). The annual soil loss ratio between the disturbed and natural plots increased from 1.6:1 in 1989 to 4.2:1 in 1993. The observed increase in surface runoff and soil loss was attributed to a progressive deterioration of soil physical properties in Plot D. Bulk density increased by 8.4% (from 1.55 to 1.68 Mg m−3) and a reduction of total organic carbon (from 4.0 to 2.6%) and the percentage of stable aggregates (from 81.6 to 56.3%) were observed. There was no evidence of vegetation recovery, suggesting that reduced vegetal cover might lead to irreversible soil degradation in semiarid areas.

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