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Rule-based analysis of throughfall kinetic energy to evaluate biotic and abiotic factor thresholds to mitigate erosive power
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Progress in Physical Geography
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Below vegetation, throughfall kinetic energy (TKE) is an important factor to express the potential of rainfall to detach soil particles and thus for predicting soil erosion rates. TKE is affected by many biotic (e.g. tree height, leaf area index) and abiotic (e.g. throughfall amount) factors because of changes in rain drop size and velocity. However, studies modelling TKE with a high number of those factors are lacking. This study presents a new approach to model TKE. We used 20 biotic and abiotic factors to evaluate thresholds of those factors that can mitigate TKE and thus decrease soil erosion. Using these thresholds, an optimal set of biotic and abiotic factors was identified to minimize TKE. The model approach combined recursive feature elimination, random forest (RF) variable importance and classification and regression trees (CARTs). TKE was determined using 1405 splash cup measurements during five rainfall events in a sub- tropical Chinese tree plantation with five-year-old trees in 2013. Our results showed that leaf area, tree height, leaf area index and crown area are the most prominent vegetation traits to model TKE. To reduce TKE, the optimal set of biotic and abiotic factors was a leaf area lower than 6700 mm², a tree height lower than 290 cm combined with a crown base height lower than 60 cm, a leaf area index smaller than 1, more than 47 branches per tree and using single tree species neighbourhoods. Rainfall characteristics, such as amount and duration, further classified high or low TKE. These findings are important for the establishment of forest plantations that aim to minimize soil erosion in young succession stages using TKE modelling.
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