State Key Laboratory of Earth Surface Processes and Resource Ecology, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China; Institute of Land Surface System and Sustainable Development, Faculty of Geographical Science, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China. Electronic address: [Email]
In the context of global climate change as well as local climate warming and drying on the Loess Plateau of China, understanding the relationship between soil particle size and soil water distribution during years of atypical precipitation is important. In this study, fractal geometry theory is used to describe the mechanical composition and texture of soils to improve our understanding of hydropedology and ecohydrology in the critical zone on the Loess Plateau. One grassland slope and two shrubland slopes were selected in the hilly and gully region of the Loess Plateau, and soils were sampled along hillslope transects at depths of 0-500 cm. Fractal theory and redundancy analysis (RDA) were used to identify relationships between the fractal dimension of soil particle-size distributions and the corresponding van Genuchten parameters for the soil-water-characteristic curves. The oven-drying method was used to measure soil water content, and the high-speed centrifugation method was used to generate soil-water-characteristic curves. The results show that (1) the soil water that can be used by Caragana korshinskii during a drought year is distributed below 2 m from the surface, whereas the soil water that can be used by grass is below 1.2 m; (2) Caragana korshinskii promotes the conservation of fine soil particles more than does natural restored grass, and the soil particle-size distribution fractal dimension changes with depth and position; and (3) soil hydraulic properties correlate strongly with soil pedological properties such as bulk density and the soil particle-size distribution fractal dimension. These results provide a case study of the relationships among soil distributions, hydrologic and geomorphic processes for vegetation restoration in drylands with a thick vadose zone. More studies on soil property changes are needed to provide case studies and empirical support for ecological restoration in the Loess Plateau of China.