Indexed on: 07 Sep '18Published on: 06 Sep '18Published in: Arabian Journal of Geosciences
Soil erosion is a major environmental problem in arid and semi-arid areas. Although bioengineering is important in preventing soil erosion, plant architecture and mechanical properties in these areas are rarely studied. In this study, in order to evaluate the potential of native plants to reduce soil erosion in semi-arid regions, their above-ground (e.g., stem density, radius of the stem, etc.) and below-ground (e.g., root area ratio, root tensile strength, etc.) characteristics were measured in the field and laboratory. Five indicators, namely, stem density (SD), sediment obstruction potential (SOP), plant stiffness (MEI), relative soil detachment (RSD), and root cohesion (Cr), were taken into account. Each indicator was scored according to a five-point scale (0 = low, 4 = high), and then, the score of each indicator was represented on an ameba diagram. Finally, for understanding traits of plants and evaluating their potential to control rill and gully erosion, the area occupied by the ameba diagram was studied. The results indicated that the shrub Ziziphus spina-christi (MEI = 108.35 N, RSD = 0.398, Cr = 8.34 kPa, SOP = 0.097, and SD = 0.00270) is a very suitable native plant species for controlling both the gully and rill erosion. In addition, Scariola orientalis is effective for sediment obstruction, but its low scores on the MEI and RSD indicators imply that it is not able to control gully development. Furthermore, Noaea mucronata, Platychaete glaucescens, Astragalus gummifer, Alhagi persarum, Lycium shawii, and Prosopis farcta have a distinct potential to reduce the rate of gully erosion. These results have wide applicability for adopting soil conservation measures to other semi-arid environments.