Evaluating restoration of man-made slopes: a threshold approach balancing vegetation and rill erosion uri icon

abstract

  • The management of reclaimed slopes derived from industrial and civil activities (e. g. surface mining and road construction) requires the development of practical stability analysis approaches that integrate the processes and mechanisms that rule the dynamics of these ubiquitous emerging ecosystems. This work describes a new modelling approach focused on stability analysis of water-limited reclaimed slopes, where interactive relationships between rill erosion and vegetation regulate ecosystem stability. Our framework reproduces two main groups of possible trends along the temporal evolution of reclaimed slopes: successful trends, characterized by widespread vegetation development and the effective control of rill erosion processes; and gullying trends, characterized by the progressive loss of vegetation and a sharp logistic increase in erosion rates. Furthermore, this analytical approach allows the determination of threshold values for the state variables (i.e. vegetation cover and rill erosion) that drive the system's stability, facilitating the identification of critical situations that require specific human intervention (e. g. revegetation or, in very problematic cases, revegetation combined with rill network destruction) to ensure the long-term sustainability of the restored ecosystem. The application of our threshold analysis framework in Mediterranean-dry reclaimed slopes derived from surface coal mining (the Teruel coalfield in central-eastern Spain) showed a good field-based performance. Therefore, we believe that this model is a valuable contribution for the management of water-limited reclaimed systems, including those associated with rill erosion, as it provides a tool for the evaluation of restoration success and can play an important role in decision-making during ecosystem restoration in severely disturbed landscapes. Copyright (C) 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

publication date

  • 2011
  • 2011