Soil-surface seals and crusts resulting from aggregate breakdown reduce the soil infiltration rate and may induce erosion by increasing runoff. The cultivated loess areas of northwestern Europe are particularly prone to these processes.Surface samples of ten tilled silty loamy loess soils, ranging in clay content from 120 to 350 g kg −1 and in organic carbon from 10 to 20 g kg −1 , were packed into 0.5 m 2 plots with 5% slopes and subjected to simulated rainfall applied at 30 mm h −1 . The 120 minutes rainfall events were applied to initially field-moist soil, air-dried soil and rewetted soil to investigate the effect of soil moisture content prior to rainfall. Runoff and eroded sediments were collected at 5 minutes intervals. Aggregate stability of the soils was assessed by measuring particle-size distribution after different treatments.All soils formed seals. Runoff rates were between 70 and 90% by the end of the rainfall event for field-moist plots. There were large differences between soil runoff rates for the air-dried and rewetted plots. Interrill erosion was associated with runoff, and sediment concentration in runoff readily reached a steady-state value. Measurements of aggregate stability for various treatments were in good agreement with sealing, runoff and erosion responses to rainfall. Runoff and erosion were lower for air-dried plots than for field-moist plots, and were either intermediate or lowest for rewetted plots, depending on soil characteristics. Soils with a high clay content had the lowest erosion rate when they were rewetted, whereas the soil with a high organic-carbon content had the lowest erosion rate in air-dry conditions. The results indicate the complexity of the effect of initial moisture content, and the interactions between soil properties and climate.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.