Temporal and spatial relationships between soil erosion and ecological restoration in semi-arid regions: a case study in northern Shaanxi, China
To assess the effects of the Grain for Green Program (GGP) on soil erosion is essential to support better land management policies in the Chinese Loess Plateau. Studies on the evaluation of the effects of the GGP on soil erosion have garnered heightened attention. However, few studies examined the efficiency of GGP on soil erosion control through spatial relationship analysis. Thus, this study focuses on analyzing the spatial variation relationship between soil erosion and GGP in northern Shaanxi, Chinese Loess Plateau, from 1988 to 2015. The Universal Soil Loss Equation was used to quantify changes in soil erosion at the regional and watershed scales, and the Geographically Weighted Regression model was used to analyze the spatial relationships between land use and land cover (LULC) and soil erosion. Our results indicated that the major characteristic of LULC change during the GGP was a rapid increase of vegetation area and a rapid decrease of cropland. Bare lands contributed to the most serious soil loss, followed by croplands and sparse grasslands. The GGP had a globally positive influence on the decrease in soil erosion over the study area, but the amount of soil erosion in western and northern regions maintained a severe level. Spatial heterogeneity in the nature of the relationships among different vegetation, croplands, and soil erosion was also observed. The change rate of wood and the change rate of soil erosion in northern sub-watershed represented a negative relationship, while the change rate of sparse grassland was negatively correlated to the change rate of soil erosion in 21 sub-watersheds, account for 72% of the study area. The GGP implemented in northern sub-watersheds were more effective for soil erosion control than southern sub-watersheds. We propose that current areas of vegetation can support soil erosion control in the whole northern Shaanxi, but local-scale ecological restoration can be considered in northern sub-watersheds.