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Title: Methodological framework to select plant species for controlling rill and gully erosion: application to a Mediterranean ecosystem
Authors: De Baets, Sarah ×
Poesen, Jean
Reubens, Bert
Muys, Bart
De Baerdemaeker, Josse
Meersmans, Jozef #
Issue Date: Aug-2009
Publisher: Wiley
Series Title: Earth surface processes and landforms vol:34 issue:10 pages:1374-1392
Abstract: Many studies attribute the effects of vegetation in reducing soil erosion rates to the effects of the above-ground
biomass. The effects of roots on topsoil resistance against concentrated flow erosion are much less studied. However, in a
Mediterranean context, where the above-ground biomass can temporarily disappear because of fire, drought or overgrazing, and
when concentrated flow erosion occurs, roots can play an important role in controlling soil erosion rates. Unfortunately,
information on Mediterranean plant characteristics, especially root characteristics, growing on semi-natural lands, and knowledge
of their suitability for gully erosion control is often lacking. A methodological framework to evaluate plant traits for this purpose is
absent as well. This paper presents a methodology to assess the suitability of plants for rill and gully erosion control and its
application to 25 plant species, representative for a semi-arid Mediterranean landscape in southeast Spain. In this analysis
determination of suitable plants for controlling concentrated flow erosion is based on a multi-criteria analysis. First, four main
criteria were determined, i.e. (1) the potential of plants to prevent incision by concentrated flow erosion, (2) the potential of plants
to improve slope stability, (3) the resistance of plants to bending by water flow and (4) the ability of plants to trap sediments and
organic debris. Then, an indicator or a combination of two indicators was used to assess the scores for the four criteria. In total,
five indicators were selected, i.e. additional root cohesion, plant stiffness, stem density, the erosion-reducing potential during
concentrated flow and the sediment and organic debris obstruction potential. Both above- and below-ground plant traits were
taken into account and measured to assess the scores for the five indicators, i.e. stem density, sediment and organic debris
obstruction potential, modulus of elasticity of the stems, moment of inertia of the stems, root density, root diameter distribution,
root area ratio and root tensile strength. The scores for the indicators were represented on amoeba diagrams, indicating the
beneficial and the weak plant traits, regarding to erosion control. The grasses Stipa tenacissima L. and Lygeum spartum L. and the
shrub Salsola genistoides Juss. Ex Poir. amongst others, were selected as very suitable plant species for rill and gully erosion
control. Stipa tenacissima can be used to re-vegetate abandoned terraces as this species is adapted to drought and offers a good
protection to concentrated flow erosion and shallow mass movements. Lygeum spartum can be used to vegetate concentrated
flow zones or to obstruct sediment inflow to channels at gully outlets. Stipa tenacissima and Salsola genistoides can be used to
stabilize steep south-facing slopes. The methodology developed in this study can be applied to other plant species in areas
suffering from rill and gully erosion
ISSN: 0197-9337
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: IT
Appears in Collections:Division Forest, Nature and Landscape Research
Division of Geography & Tourism
Division of Mechatronics, Biostatistics and Sensors (MeBioS)
× corresponding author
# (joint) last author

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