Volume 52, Issue 1 p. 59-68

Effects of rock fragment cover on soil infiltration, interrill runoff and erosion

A. Cerdà

A. Cerdà

Centro de Investigaciones sobre Desertificación-CIDE (CSIC, Universitat de València, Generalitat Valenciana), Camí Real, s/n, 46470 Albal, València, Spain

Search for more papers by this author
First published: 21 December 2001
Citations: 247
E-mail: [email protected]


Considerable attention has been paid recently to the influence of surface rock fragments on hydrological and erosional processes, although much of this research has been done on disturbed soils under laboratory conditions. I have studied the effects of rock fragments on soil infiltration, runoff and erosion under field conditions using simulated rainfall on bare areas of natural soils within typical Mediterranean scrubland characterized by patchily distributed vegetation. Sample areas were chosen where rock fragments cover more than half the surface within unvegetated patches. Twenty experiments were carried out by applying rain at an intensity of 55 mm h−1 for 60 minutes. This approach shows that rock fragments (i) retard ponding and surface runoff, and (ii) give greater steady-state infiltration rates and smaller interrill runoff discharges, sediment concentrations and interrill erosion rates. A second set of six experiments was carried out by applying rainfall at an intensity of 55 mm h−1 for two runs of 60 minutes. The second run was initiated 10 minutes after the first. During this interval, surface rock fragments were removed in order to measure their effects on infiltration, interrill runoff and erosion rates. In this way, I showed that water and soil losses are reduced by the rock fragments. After the removal of rock fragments the steady-state infiltration rate diminished from 44.5 to 27.5 mm h−1 and the runoff coefficient, sediment concentration and erosion rates were, respectively, 3, 33 and 39 times greater than they were before the rock fragments were removed.