Articles | Volume 8, issue 3
Solid Earth, 8, 661–669, 2017
Solid Earth, 8, 661–669, 2017

Research article 29 May 2017

Research article | 29 May 2017

Evaluating of the spatial heterogeneity of soil loss tolerance and its effects on erosion risk in the carbonate areas of southern China

Yue Li1,2, Xiao Yong Bai1,2,4, Shi Jie Wang1,2, Luo Yi Qin1,2, Yi Chao Tian1,3, and Guang Jie Luo1,3 Yue Li et al.
  • 1State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Guiyang, Guizhou, 550002, PR China
  • 2Puding Comprehensive Karst Research and Experimental Station, Institute of Geochemistry, CAS and Science and Technology Department of Guizhou Province, Puding, Guizhou, 562100, PR China
  • 3Graduate School of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, PR China
  • 4Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences,Chengdu, Sichuan, 610041, PR China

Abstract. Soil loss tolerance (T value) is one of the criteria in determining the necessity of erosion control measures and ecological restoration strategy. However, the validity of this criterion in subtropical karst regions is strongly disputed. In this study, T value is calculated based on soil formation rate by using a digital distribution map of carbonate rock assemblage types. Results indicated a spatial heterogeneity and diversity in soil loss tolerance. Instead of only one criterion, a minimum of three criteria should be considered when investigating the carbonate areas of southern China because the one region, one T value concept may not be applicable to this region. T value is proportionate to the amount of argillaceous material, which determines the surface soil thickness of the formations in homogenous carbonate rock areas. Homogenous carbonate rock, carbonate rock intercalated with clastic rock areas and carbonate/clastic rock alternation areas have T values of 20, 50 and 100 t/(km2 a), and they are extremely, severely and moderately sensitive to soil erosion. Karst rocky desertification (KRD) is defined as extreme soil erosion and reflects the risks of erosion. Thus, the relationship between T value and erosion risk is determined using KRD as a parameter. The existence of KRD land is unrelated to the T value, although this parameter indicates erosion sensitivity. Erosion risk is strongly dependent on the relationship between real soil loss (RL) and T value rather than on either erosion intensity or the T value itself. If RL > > T, then the erosion risk is high despite of a low RL. Conversely, if T > > RL, then the soil is safe although RL is high. Overall, these findings may clarify the heterogeneity of T value and its effect on erosion risk in a karst environment.

Short summary
First, we report the following discovery: T values are spatially heterogeneous, and a minimum of three criteria should be considered instead of only a single criterion in karst areas. In fact, our findings disprove the old “one region, one T value” concept. Second, we proposed a new viewpoint: in karst regions, a large soil erosion modulus does not correspond to severe soil erosion. Although T value can reflect soil sensitivity, this value cannot indicate soil erosion risk.