Extreme meteorological events occur frequently, and changes in the spatial pattern of land use have greatly affected the soil erosion process in the hilly and gully region of the Loess Plateau. As a typical governance watershed in the hilly and gully area of the Loess Plateau, the Jiuyuangou watershed has experienced significant changes in land use and land cover (LULCC) in the past ten years due to the conversion of farmland to forests, economic construction, and abandonment of cultivated land. However, the evolution process of soil erosion under LULCC in the watershed is unclear. This study uses satellite images to extract information on LULCC in the watershed and the Chinese soil loss equation (CSLE) model to evaluate the temporal and spatial evolution of soil erosion in the watershed from 2010 to 2020. The main results showed that: (1) The continuous vegetation restoration project in the watershed reduced soil erosion from 2010 to 2015; however, the frequency of extreme rainfall events after 2015 reduced its impact. The annual average soil erosion modulus decreased from 10.85 t ha –1 yr –1 in 2010 to 8.03 t ha –1 yr –1 in 2015, but then increased to 10.57 t ha –1 yr –1in 2020; (2) The main LULC type in the Jiuyuangou watershed is grassland, accounting for 62.23% of the total area of the watershed, followed by forest land (28.41%), cropland (6.77%), building (2.49%), and water (0.09%). The multi-year average soil erosion modulus for land use type is cropland > grassland > building > forest land; (3) Significant spatial correlations between soil erosion change and LULCC for common ‘no change’ and common ‘gain’ occurred in the settlements, roads, valleys, and areas near the human influences with good soil and water conservation, but not other regions due to the influence of climatic factors (heavy rain events). This study provides a scientific reference for planning and managing water and soil conservation and ecological environment construction in the basin.
Extreme droughts of increased frequency due to climate change poses great challenges to the sustainability of plantations in drylands worldwide. Millions of plantations on China’s Loess Plateau which are mainly in drylands are threatened by serious degradation due to water scarcity. Here we aim to disentangle the impacts of combinations of terracing and mulching on water use strategy and its response to extreme droughts in a rainfed jujube (Ziziphus jujuba) plantation on the semiarid Loess Plateau, using three-year in situ field observations. Pruned jujube branches and maize straw were mulched on half-moon terraces to form two combined treatments, referred to as JBT and MST, respectively. The efficacy of these two combinations on the water use strategy of jujube trees was compared with terracing alone (SHT) and control (no terrace). We found that extreme drought clearly reduced soil water storage (SWS) under all treatments. However, the combined treatments showed significantly (P<0.05) higher SWS than the SHT and control. Furthermore, the combined treatments enhanced soil water use in deep layers during both normal and drought years, thus helping jujube trees to resist droughts. Moreover, the extreme drought significantly reduced transpiration whereas the moderate drought increased transpiration at both seasonal and annual scales. Nonetheless, the combined treatments were associated with enhanced transpiration compared to the SHT and control during drought periods. Finally, jujube trees exhibited isohydric behavior which also helped them to cope with prolonged droughts. Overall, the findings here may provide insights into land management of dryland plantations worldwide under climate change.