Earth surface processes and landforms vol:28 issue:4 pages:371-384
While it has been demonstrated in numerous studies that the aboveground characteristics of the vegetation are of particular importance with respect to soil erosion control, this study argues the importance of separating the influence of vegetation on soil erosion rates into two parts: the impact of leaves and stems (aboveground biomass) and the influence of roots (belowground biomass). Although both plant parameters form inseparable constituents of the total plant organism, most studies attribute the impact of vegetation on soil erosion rates mainly to the characteristics of the aboveground biomass. This triggers the question whether the belowground biomass is of no or negligible importance with respect to soil erosion by concentrated flow. This study tried to answer this question by comparing cross-sectional areas of concentrated flow channels (rills and ephemeral gullies) in the Belgian Loess Belt for different cereal and grass plant densities. The results of these measurements highlighted the fact that both an increase in shoot density as well as an increase in root density resulted in an exponential decrease of concentrated flow erosion rates. Since protection of the soil surface in the early plant growth stages is crucial with respect to the reduction of water erosion rates, increasing the plant root density in the topsoil could be a viable erosion control strategy. Copyright (C) 2003 John Wiley Sons, Ltd.