Effectiveness of Chinese pine (Pinus tabulaeformis) plantation at reducing runoff and erosion rates in Anjiagou Watershed in Semi-arid Region of Gansu, China

PLoS One. 2022 Jul 8;17(7):e0271200. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0271200. eCollection 2022.


China's Loess Plateau regions have experienced severe soil erosion for many decades due to fragmented landscapes, steep slopes, and concentrated rainfall storm-events. Restoring sub-optimal or marginal farming fields, mostly on steep, hilly terrain, to plantation forests has been a long-standing strategic policy in China aimed at rehabilitating degraded environments and reducing soil and water erosion. While there are numerous studies that have focused on the effects of forests at controlling soil erosion at relatively short time scales, few have addressed longer-term effects of plantation forests on reducing runoff and the mechanisms that inhibit erosion. Chinese pine (Pinus tabulaeformis) has been widely planted in abandoned or reclaimed lands that were formerly farmed in Northwest China; however, there is limited knowledge about the effectiveness of the tree species at reducing soil and water erosion. In this study, we examined reduction rates of runoff and erosion by Chinese pine plantation in comparison with agricultural land as a control (i.e., wheat, a dominant agricultural commodity in the region), based on long-term monitoring of modified standard erosion plots with slopes of 10°, 15°, and 20°. Results showed that as the slope of the land increased, rates of erosion increased for both plantation and agricultural land use. However, the runoff and soil erosion rates under Chinese pine plantation forest were about 11% and 60% lower, respectively, than those under agricultural land use of the same slope. Scaling with the slope, the highest reduced runoff and erosion rates by Chinese pine forest were 17% and 72%, respectively, on 20° slope. Also, it was found that runoff rates from the forested land were positively related to erosive rainfall (i.e., rainfall when runoff generated), and varied with forest canopy coverage. The rates of runoff and erosion can be well model led with multiple regression models. Taken together, this study provides insight into the importance and potential of Chinese pine plantations in the conservation of soil and water in China's Loess Plateau.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture
  • China
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Pinus*
  • Soil
  • Water


  • Soil
  • Water

Grants and funding

This study was funded by Gansu Agricultural University Innovation Fund (GSAU-XKJS-2018-105) and Excellent Postgraduate "Innovation Star" Project of Gansu Provincial Department of Education (2021CXZX-365).