Skip to main content Accessibility help

Stochastic soil moisture dynamic modelling: a case study in the Loess Plateau, China

  • Cong WANG (a1), Shuai WANG (a2), Bojie FU (a1), Lu ZHANG (a3), Nan LU (a1) and Lei JIAO (a1)...


Soil moisture is a key factor in the ecohydrological cycle in water-limited ecosystems, and it integrates the effects of climate, soil, and vegetation. The water balance and the hydrological cycle are significantly important for vegetation restoration in water-limited regions, and these dynamics are still poorly understood. In this study, the soil moisture and water balance were modelled with the stochastic soil water balance model in the Loess Plateau, China. This model was verified by monitoring soil moisture data of black locust plantations in the Yangjuangou catchment in the Loess Plateau. The influences of a rainfall regime change on soil moisture and water balance were also explored. Three meteorological stations were selected (Yulin, Yan'an, and Luochuan) along the precipitation gradient to detect the effects of rainfall spatial variability on the soil moisture and water balance. The results showed that soil moisture tended to be more frequent at low levels with decreasing precipitation, and the ratio of evapotranspiration under stress in response to rainfall also changed from 74.0% in Yulin to 52.3% in Luochuan. In addition, the effects of a temporal change in rainfall regime on soil moisture and water balance were explored at Yan'an. The soil moisture probability density function moved to high soil moisture in the wet period compared to the dry period of Yan'an, and the evapotranspiration under stress increased from 59.5% to 72% from the wet period to the dry period. The results of this study prove the applicability of the stochastic model in the Loess Plateau and reveal its potential for guiding the vegetation restoration in the next stage.


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author


Hide All
Bai, Y. & Shao, M. 2009. Soil water properties in a slope of different land use in the wind-water erosion crisscross region on the Loess Plateau. Agricultural Research in the Arid Areas 27, 122129. [In Chinese.]
Cao, S., Ge, S., Zhang, Z., Chen, L., Qi, F., Fu, B., Mcnulty, S., Shankman, D., Tang, J. & Wang, Y. 2011. Greening China naturally. Ambio A Journal of the Human Environment 40, 828831.
Caylor, K. K., Scanlon, T. M. & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. 2009. Ecohydrological optimization of pattern and processes in water-limited ecosystems: a trade-off-based hypothesis. Water Resources Research 45, W08407.
Chen, L., Wang, J., Wei, W., Fu, B. & Wu, D. 2010. Effects of landscape restoration on soil water storage and water use in the Loess Plateau region, China. Forest Ecology & Management 259, 12911298.
Cordova, J. R. & Bras, R. L. 1981. Physically based probabilistic models of infiltration, soil moisture, and actual evapotranspiration. Water Resources Research 17, 93106.
Daly, E. & Porporato, A. 2006. Impact of hydroclimatic fluctuations on the soil water balance. Water Resources Research 42, 648648.
D'Odorico, P., Caylor, K., Okin, G. S. & Scanlon, T. M. 2007. On soil moisture–vegetation feedbacks and their possible effects on the dynamics of dryland ecosystems. Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres 112, 231247.
D'Odorico, P. & Porporato, A. 2006. Dryland ecohydrology. Dordrecht, the Netherlands: Springer.
Eagleson, P. S. 1978. Climate, soil, and vegetation: 2. The distribution of annual precipitation derived from observed storm sequences. Water Resources Research 14, 713721.
Flerchinger, G. N., Baker, J. M. & Spaans, E. J. A. 1996. A test of the radiative energy balance of the SHAW model for snowcover. Hydrological Processes 10, 13591367.
Franz, T. E., Caylor, K. K., Nordbotten, J. M., Rodrigueziturbe, I. & Celia, M. A. 2010. An ecohydrological approach to predicting regional woody species distribution patterns in dryland ecosystems. Advances in Water Resources 33, 215230.
Franz, T. E., Caylor, K. K., King, E. G., Nordbotten, J. M. & Celia, M. A. 2012. An ecohydrological approach to predicting hillslope-scale vegetation patterns in dryland ecosystems. Water Resources Research 48, 1515.
Fu, W., Huang, M., Gallichand, J. & Shao, M. 2012. Optimization of plant coverage in relation to water balance in the Loess Plateau of China. Geoderma , 134144.
Jiao, L., Lu, N., Sun, G., Ward, E. J. & Fu, B. 2015. Biophysical controls on canopy transpiration in a black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) plantation on the semi-arid Loess Plateau, China. Ecohydrology: Ecosystems, Land and Water Process Interactions, Ecohydrogeomorphology 282, 1718.
Jiao, L., Lu, N., Fu, B., Gao, G., Wang, S., Jin, T., Zhang, L., Liu, J. & Zhang, D. 2016. Comparison of transpiration between different aged black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) trees on the semi-arid Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Arid Land 8, 114.
Kiang, N. Y.-l. 2002. Savannas and seasonal drought: the landscape-leaf connection through optimal stomatal control. Berkeley, CA: University of California. 322 pp.
Laio, F., Porporato, A., Fernandez-Illescas, C. P. & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. 2001a. Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress: Iv. Discussion of real cases. Advances in Water Resources 24, 745762.
Laio, F., Porporato, A., Ridolfi, L. & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. 2001b. Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress: Ii. Probabilistic soil moisture dynamics. Advances in Water Resources 24, 707723.
Li, Y. 2001. Effects of forest on water circle on the Loess Plateau. Journal of Natural Resources 16, 427432. [In Chinese with English abstract.]
Liang, W., Bai, D., Wang, F., Fu, B., Yan, J., Shuai, W., Yang, Y., Di, L. & Feng, M. 2015. Quantifying the impacts of climate change and ecological restoration on streamflow changes based on a Budyko hydrological model in China's Loess Plateau. Water Resources Research 51, 65006519.
Liu, Y. 2007. Analysis on the change trend of precipitation in North Shaanxi Province in the Loess Plateau. Arid Zone Research 24, 4955. [In Chinese.]
Lu, N., Akujärvi, A., Wu, X., Liski, J., Wen, Z., Holmberg, M., Feng, X., Zeng, Y. & Fu, B. 2015. Changes in soil carbon stock predicted by a process-based soil carbon model (yasso07) in the Yanhe watershed of the Loess Plateau. Landscape Ecology 30, 399413.
, Y., Zhang, L., Feng, X., Zeng, Y., Fu, B., Yao, X., Li, J. & Wu, B. 2015. Recent ecological transitions in China: greening, browning, and influential factors. Scientific Reports 5, 8732.
Manfreda, S., Scanlon, T. M. & Caylor, K. K. 2010. On the importance of accurate depiction of infiltration processes on modelled soil moisture and vegetation water stress. Ecohydrology: Ecosystems, Land and Water Process Interactions, Ecohydrogeomorphology 3, 155165.
McVicar, T. R., Niel, T. G. V., Li, L. T., Wen, Z. M., Yang, Q. K., Li, R. & Jiao, F. 2010. Parsimoniously modelling perennial vegetation suitability and identifying priority areas to support China's re-vegetation program in the Loess Plateau: matching model complexity to data availability. Forest Ecology & Management 259, 12771290.
Miao, C., Sun, Q., Duan, Q. & Wang, Y. 2016. Joint analysis of changes in temperature and precipitation on the Loess Plateau during the period 1961–2011. Climate Dynamics 47, 32213234.
Milly, P. C. D. 1993. An analytic solution of the stochastic storage problem applicable to soil water. Water Resources Research 29, 37553758.
Porporato, A., Laio, F., Ridolfi, L. & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. 2001. Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress: Iii. Vegetation water stress. Advances in Water Resources 24, 725744.
Rawls, W. J., Ahuja, L. R., Brakensiek, D. L., Shirmohammadi, A. & Maidment, D. R. 1992. Infiltration and soil water movement, pp. 5.1–5.51.
Ridolfi, L., D'Odorico, P., Porporato, A. & Rodriguez-Iturbe, I. 2000. Impact of climate variability on the vegetation water stress. Journal of Geophysical Research Atmospheres 105, 18013–26.
Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., Porporato, A., Ridolfi, L., Isham, V. & Coxi, D. R. 1999. Probabilistic modelling of water balance at a point: the role of climate, soil and vegetation. Proceedings Mathematical Physical & Engineering Sciences 455, 37893805.
Rodriguez-Iturbe, I., Porporato, A., Laio, F. & Ridolfi, L. 2001. Plants in water-controlled ecosystems: active role in hydrologic processes and response to water stress : I. Scope and general outline. Advances in Water Resources 24, 695705.
Rodríguez-Iturbe, I. & Porporato, A. 2004. Ecohydrology of water-controlled ecosystems: soil moisture and plant dynamics. New York: Cambridge University Press, United States of America by Cambridge University Press.
Scholes, R. & Walker, B. 1993. An African savanna. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.
Sun, Q., Miao, C., Duan, Q. & Wang, Y. 2015. Temperature and precipitation changes over the Loess Plateau between 1961 and 2011, based on high-density gauge observations. Global & Planetary Change 132, 110.
Verma, P., Yeates, J. & Daly, E. 2011. A stochastic model describing the impact of daily rainfall depth distribution on the soil water balance. Advances in Water Resources 34, 10391048.
Vervoort, R. W. & van der Zee, S. E. 2008. Simulating the effect of capillary flux on the soil water balance in a stochastic ecohydrological framework. Water Resources Research 44, W08425.
Wang, C., Wang, S., Fu, B., Li, Z., Wu, X. & Tang, Q. 2017a. Precipitation gradient determines the tradeoff between soil moisture and soil organic carbon, total nitrogen, and species richness in the Loess Plateau, China. Science of the Total Environment 575, 15381545.
Wang, C., Wang, S., Fu, B., Yang, L. & Li, Z. 2017b. Soil moisture variations with land use along the precipitation gradient in the north-south transect of the Loess Plateau. Land Degradation & Development 28, 926935.
Wang, M. C., Wang, J. X., Shi, Q. H. & Zhang, J. S. 2007. Photosynthesis and water use efficiency of Platycladus orientalis and Robinia pseudoacacia saplings under steady soil water stress during different stages of their annual growth period. Journal of Integrative Plant Biology 49, 14701477.
Wang, S., Fu, B. J., Gao, G. Y., Yao, X. L. & Zhou, J. 2012. Soil moisture and evapotranspiration of different land cover types in the Loess Plateau, China. Hydrology & Earth System Sciences 16, 28832892.
Wang, S., Fu, B., Piao, S., , Y., Ciais, P., Feng, X. & Wang, Y. 2015. Reduced sediment transport in the Yellow River due to anthropogenic changes. Nature Geoscience 9, 3841.
Xia, Y. Q. & Shao, M. A. 2008. Soil water carrying capacity for vegetation: a hydrologic and biogeochemical process model solution. Ecological Modelling 214, 112124.
Xingyao, P., Lu, Z., Nicholas, J. P., Jun, X. & Yongqiang, Z. 2011. Probabilistic modeling of soil moisture dynamics of irrigated cropland in the north China plain. Hydrological Sciences Journal/journal Des Sciences Hydrologiques 56, 123137.
Yu, Y., Wei, W., Chen, L. D., Yang, L., Jia, F. Y. & Zhang, H. D. 2015. Responses of vertical soil moisture to rainfall pulses and land uses in a typical loess hilly area, China. Solid Earth 6, 595608.
Zhang, L. & Xu, X. 2011. Distribution characters of Robinia pseudoacacia root in Yangou watershed in Yan'an. Journal of Northwest Forestry University 26, 914. [In Chinese.]
Zhang, X., Zhao, W., Liu, Y., Fang, X. & Feng, Q. 2016. The relationships between grasslands and soil moisture on the Loess Plateau of China: a review. Catena 145, 5667.
Zheng, Y., Zhao, Z., Zhou, J., Zhou, H., Liang, Z. & Luo, Z. 2011. The importance of slope aspect and stand age on the photosynthetic carbon fixation capacity of forest: a case study with black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) plantations on the Loess Plateau. Acta Physiologiae Plantarum 33(2), 419429.
Zhou, J., Fu, B., Gao, G., , Y. & Wang, S. 2016. Effect of restoration vegetation on the stochasticity of soil erosion in a semi-arid environment. Hydrology & Earth System Sciences Discussions 2016, 146.



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed