DOI: 10.1002/ldr.4878 ISSN:

Understanding the balance between soil conservation and soil water storage capacity during the process of vegetation restoration in semi‐arid watersheds in the Loess Plateau, China

Yang Yu, Ruipeng Zhu, Dianjun Liu, Zhiqiang Gao, Jiongchang Zhao, Daoming Ma, Liping Wang, Jesús Rodrigo‐Comino
  • Soil Science
  • General Environmental Science
  • Development
  • Environmental Chemistry


In the Loess Plateau, gaining insights into the water storage and soil retention functions of diverse vegetation types, especially, in the semi‐arid watersheds is crucial for identifying the key factors necessary to ensure sustainable development and achieve land degradation neutrality. In this study, five different land use types such as forest, shrub, artificial grass, and natural grasslands were surveyed from 2014 to 2020. Meanwhile, bare land was also used as a control plot. The trade‐off between erosion mitigation and water consumption indicator was quantified based on the ecosystem services perspective benefits. Our results showed that there are significant differences among different land use types (p < 0.05): natural grassland > shrubs > artificial grassland > forests. Vegetation restoration was able to change the soil particle size distribution, increasing clay and silt content, and decreasing sand particles. During the growing season, surface soil water storage decreased in all land use types coinciding with the higher decrease in the control plot. The change in surface water storage in the forest was the most stable, with a decrease of 0.13 mm. The trade‐off between erosion mitigation and water consumption indicator was less than 0 for all vegetation types, which indicates a synergistic effect on soil conservation and water storage benefit. Our results demonstrated that shrubs can register the most balanced benefit of water storage and soil preservation. This is a solid basis for the selection of specific vegetation types and the optimization of the watershed landscape in the middle reaches of the Yellow River, characterized by vulnerable areas due to aridification.

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