Soil erosion risk assessment is an essential foundation for the planning and implementation of soil and water conservation projects. The commonality among existing studies is that they considered different indicators (e.g., rainfall and slope) in order to determine the soil erosion risk; however, the majority of studies in China neglect one important indicator, namely the slope aspect. It is widely accepted that the vegetation and distribution of rainfall differs according to the different slope aspects (such as sunny slope and shady slope) and these attributes will accordingly influence the soil erosion. Thus, existing studies neglecting this indicator cannot reflect the soil erosion well. To address this problem, a flexible soil erosion risk assessment method that supports decision makers in identifying priority areas in soil and water conservation planning was developed in the present study. Firstly, in order to verify the impact of the slope aspect on soil erosion, field investigations were conducted, and its impact on the characteristics of the community in the study area was analyzed. Secondly, six assessment indicators were selected, including slope gradient, precipitation, NDVI, land use, soil texture and slope aspect. Next, a developed multi-criteria decision analysis (MCDA) method based on the Choquet integral was adopted to assess the soil erosion risk. The MCDA method, combining objective data with subjective assessment based on Choquet integral, could solve the weight problem encountered when using the quantitative method. The parameters required can be modified according to the soil erosion types, assessment scales, and data availability. The synergistic and inhibitory effects among the soil erosion parameters were also considered in the assessment. Finally, the soil erosion risk results in the Xinshui River watershed revealed that more attention should be paid to the slope of farmland and grassland during the planning and management of soil and water conservation projects. The methodology used in the current study can support decision makers in planning and implementing soil and water conservation measures in regions with different erosion types.
Keywords: Choquet integral; Loess Plateau; multi-criteria decision analysis; soil erosion risk.