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Concept: Loess Plateau

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This article presents magnetic data of a 300-m-thick Mio-Pliocene red clay and Quaternary loess-paleosol sequence near Chaona town in the Central Chinese Loess Plateau. Detailed magnetostratigraphy shows that the aeolian red clay began to accumulate at ca. 8.1 Ma. Here, we presented a high-resolution rock magnetic data at 20-40 cm intervals within 4.5-8 ka span per sample of this section, which has been published in Song et al. (2014) [1] and (2017) [2]. The dataset including the following magnetic parameters: mass magnetic susceptibility (χ), frequency-dependent susceptibility (χfd), saturation magnetization (Ms), saturation remanent magnetization (Mrs), coercive force (Bc), remanent coercivity (Bcr), saturation isothermal remanent magnetization (SIRM) and S-ratio. Magnetic susceptibility and hysteresis parameters were measured at Lanzhou University and Kyoto University, respectively. This data provides a high-resolution rock magnetic evidences for understanding East Asia Monsoon change, Asian interior aridification and tectonic effect of the uplift of the Tibetan Plateau since middle Miocene period.

Concepts: Magnetism, Permeability, Magnetization, Hysteresis, Coercivity, Central Asia, Gansu, Loess Plateau

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In the world-famous sediments of the Chinese Loess Plateau, fossil soils alternate with windblown dust layers to record monsoonal variations over the last ∼3 My. The less-weathered, weakly magnetic dust layers reflect drier, colder glaciations. The fossil soils (paleosols) contain variable concentrations of nanoscale, strongly magnetic iron oxides, formed in situ during the wetter, warmer interglaciations. Mineralogical identification of the magnetic soil oxides is essential for deciphering these key paleoclimatic records. Formation of magnetite, a mixed Fe2+/Fe3+ ferrimagnet, has been linked to soil redox oscillations, and thence to paleorainfall. An opposite hypothesis states that magnetite can only form if the soil is water saturated for significant periods in order for Fe3+ to be reduced to Fe2+, and suggests instead the temperature-dependent formation of maghemite, an Fe3+-oxide, much of which ages subsequently into hematite, typically aluminum substituted. This latter, oxidizing pathway would have been temperature, but not rainfall dependent. Here, through structural fingerprinting and scanning transmission electron microscopy and electron energy loss spectroscopy analysis, we prove that magnetite is the dominant soil-formed ferrite. Maghemite is present in lower concentrations, and shows no evidence of aluminum substitution, negating its proposed precursor role for the aluminum-substituted hematite prevalent in the paleosols. Magnetite dominance demonstrates that magnetite formation occurs in well-drained, generally oxidizing soils, and that soil wetting/drying oscillations drive the degree of soil magnetic enhancement. The magnetic variations of the Chinese Loess Plateau paleosols thus record changes in monsoonal rainfall, over timescales of millions of years.

Concepts: Iron, Soil, Nitrogen, Erosion, Magnetite, Electron energy loss spectroscopy, Loess, Loess Plateau

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Land use plays an essential role in regional carbon cycling, potentially influencing the exchange rates of CO2 flux between soil and the atmosphere in terrestrial ecosystems. Temperature sensitivity of soil respiration (Q10), as an efficient parameter to reflect the possible feedback between the global carbon cycle and climate change, has been extensively studied. However, very few reports have assessed the difference in temperature sensitivity of soil respiration under different land use types. In this study, a three-year field experiment was conducted in cropland (winter wheat, Triticum aestivum L.) and apple orchard (Malus domestica Borkh) on the semi-arid Loess Plateau from 2011 to 2013. Soil respiration (measured using Li-Cor 8100), bacterial community structure (represented by 16S rRNA), soil enzyme activities, and soil physicochemical properties of surface soil were monitored. The average annual soil respiration rate in the apple orchard was 12% greater than that in the cropland (2.01 vs. 1.80μmolm-2s-1), despite that the average Q10 values in the apple orchard was 15% lower than that in the cropland (ranging from 1.63 to 1.41). As to the differences among predominant phyla, Proteobacteria was 26% higher in the apple orchard than that in the cropland, whereas Actinobacteria and Acidobacteria were 18% and 36% lower in the apple orchard. The β-glucosidase and cellobiohydrolase activity were 15% (44.92 vs. 39.09nmolh-1g-1) and 22% greater (21.39 vs. 17.50nmolh-1g-1) in the apple orchard than that in the cropland. Compared to the cropland, the lower Q10 values in the apple orchard resulted from the variations of bacterial community structure and β-glucosidase and cellobiohydrolase activity. In addition, the lower C: N ratios in the apple orchard (6.50 vs. 8.40) possibly also contributed to its lower Q10 values. Our findings call for further studies to include the varying effects of land use types into consideration when applying Q10 values to predict the potential CO2 efflux feedbacks between terrestrial ecosystems and future climate scenarios.

Concepts: Oxygen, Carbon dioxide, Bacteria, Soil, Wheat, Carbon, Carbon cycle, Loess Plateau

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Evaluating the quantity of flood season floodwater that is difficult to control or use in rivers with high sediment concentration is an important part of water resource evaluation and floodwater resource utilisation. This study proposes a method coupling water quantity and quality to evaluate such floodwater. The method divides floodwater into floodwater that is difficult to control (‘difficult-controllable’) and floodwater that is controllable but difficult to use (‘controllable but difficult-use’). A case study of the Bajiazui Reservoir in the Jing River in China’s Loess Plateau is presented. The average annual quantity of difficult-controllable floodwater is 10.4 million m3. The annual mean quantity of the difficult-controllable/-use floodwater is 38.1 million m3. The majority of that amount (78.21%) comprised controllable but difficult-use floodwater. An analysis of 64 combinations of factors influencing the quantity of the difficult-controllable/-use floodwater shows that the sediment concentration of run-off is the primary factor influencing the difficult-controllable/-use floodwater. The reservoir’s maximum flood release capacity and floodwater rejection coefficient are the primary factors affecting the difficult-controllable and controllable but difficult-use floodwater, respectively. The new evaluation method is superior to traditional methods and is suitable for evaluating difficult-controllable/-use floodwater in high-sediment rivers.

Concepts: Water, Hydrology, River, Erosion, Dam, Flood, River Thames, Loess Plateau

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Soil erosion is a universal phenomenon on the Loess Plateau but it exhibits complex and typical mechanism which makes it difficult to understand soil loss laws on slopes. We design artificial simulated rainfall experiments including six rainfall intensities (45, 60, 75, 90, 105, 120 mm/h) and five slopes (5°, 10°, 15°, 20°, 25°) to reveal the fundamental changing trends of runoff and sediment yield on bare loess soil. Here, we show that the runoff yield within the initial 15 min increased rapidly and its trend gradually became stable. Trends of sediment yield under different rainfall intensities are various. The linear correlation between runoff and rainfall intensity is obvious for different slopes, but the correlations between sediment yield and rainfall intensity are weak. Runoff and sediment yield on the slope surface both presents an increasing trend when the rainfall intensity increases from 45 mm/h to 120 mm/h, but the increasing trend of runoff yield is higher than that of sediment yield. The sediment yield also has an overall increasing trend when the slope changes from 5° to 25°, but the trend of runoff yield is not obvious. Our results may provide data support and underlying insights needed to guide the management of soil conservation planning on the Loess Plateau.

Concepts: Soil, Correlation and dependence, Erosion, Silt, Slope, Surface runoff, Loess, Loess Plateau

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Understanding the dynamics of organic matter (OM) at global and local scales is one of the challenges in the environmental sciences and i.e. terrestrial biogeochemistry. The accurate identification of OM is an essential element to achieve this goal. In our study, a novel application for quantitatively apportioning sources of eroded sedimentary OM from an eco-geomorphologic perspective was shown successfully via a coupled molecular n-alkane biomarkers and stable isotopic signatures ((13)C and (15)N) along with elemental compositions (TOC and TN) using a Bayesian mixing model (SIAR). Soil source samples were collected from different land use types (i.e., forests, grassland, cropland, and fallow) and gully, which were probably transported downstream along the steep terrain. Meanwhile, three soil profiles with a total of 90 sediment samples were also sampled in check dam. The results indicated that cropland was the main sedimentary OM source in this catchment, contributing 29.5%, whereas the forests, grassland, fallow and gully contributed 12.17%, 15.39%, 21.53% and 21.85%, respectively. Although the molecular biomarker as a tracer was not valid solely, the combined approaches of n-alkanes biomarker and bulk parameters were efficient complements in tracing OM source in a hilly-gully region on the Loess Plateau of China.

Concepts: Sediment, Soil, Chemical element, Erosion, Geology, Silt, Organic matter, Loess Plateau

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The Chinese Loess Plateau region has long been suffering from serious soil erosion. Thus, large-scale afforestation has continued during the past decades in order to control soil erosion. Afforestation can dramatically alter nutrient cycles, affect soil-carbon storage, and change hydrology. However, it is unknown how afforestation influences species diversity of the soil seed bank and understory vegetation compared with spontaneous restoration of abandoned land. Forest land with trees planted 30 years ago, abandoned slope land restored spontaneously for 30 years, and the corresponding slopes with remnant natural vegetation were selected as sampling sites. The species richness both in the soil seed bank and vegetation was significantly higher on the afforested slope compared to the spontaneously restored abandoned land. The species similarity between the afforested slope and the remnant slope land was high both in the soil seed bank and standing vegetation compared to the abandoned land. The soil seed bank density varied from 1778 ± 187 to 3896 ± 221 seeds/m², and more than half of it was constituted by annual and biennial species, with no significant difference among sampling habitats. However, the afforested slope had higher seed density of grass and shrub/subshrubs compared to the abandoned slope. The present study indicates that in the study region, characterized by serious soil erosion, afforestation can better facilitate vegetation succession compared to spontaneously restoration of abandoned slope land.

Concepts: Biodiversity, Soil, Erosion, Silt, Ecological succession, Geomorphology, Loess Plateau, Deforestation

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Black locust accounts for over 90% of artificial forests in China’s Loess Plateau region. However, water use of black locust is an uphill challenge for this semi-arid region. To accurately quantify tree water use and to explain the related hydrological processes, it is important to collect reliable data for application in the estimation of sap flow and its response to environmental factors. This study measured sap flow in black locust in the 2015 and 2016 growth seasons using the thermal dissipation probes technique and laboratory-calibrated Granier’s equation. The study showed that the laboratory calibrated coefficient α was much larger than the original value presented by Granier, while the coefficient β was similar to the original one. The average daily transpiration was 2.1 mm day(-1) for 2015 and 1.6 mm day(-1) for 2016. Net solar radiation (Rn) was the key meteorological factor controlling sap flow, followed by vapor pressure deficit (VPD) and then temperature (T). VPD had a threshold control on sap flow at threshold values of 1.9 kPa for 2015 and 1.6 kPa for 2016. The effects of diurnal hysteresis of Rn, VPD and T on sap flow were evident, indicating that black locust water use was conservative.

Concepts: Hydrology, Erosion, Pressure, Meteorology, Vapor pressure, Vapor, Evaporation, Loess Plateau

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Soil erosion is complex in the wind-water erosion crisscross region of the Chinese Loess Plateau, as interleaving of wind and water erosion occurs on both temporal and spatial scales. It is difficult to distinguish wind erosion from the total erosion in previous studies due to the untraceable of aeolian particles and the limitation of feasible methods and techniques. This study used beryllium-7 measurements to study wind erosion in the wind-water erosion crisscross region on the Chinese Loess Plateau arms to delineate wind erosion distribution, to analyze its implication to erosive winds and surface microrelief, and to determine correlations between erosion rates and slope gradients. Results obtained using beryllium-7 measurements based on observation plots were verified with saltating particle collection method, and were also verified on a field scale. Results indicated that the effective resultant erosion wind was from northward, which was proved by the eight-directional distributed saltating particles. The microrelief of the ground surface contributed to the formation of high or low erosion centers. Wind erosion rates increased with a linear (R(2)≥0.95) or exponential (R(2)≥0.83) fitting increase in the slope gradients as reported in previous studies. Compared to wind erosion on field scale, both the plots and fields exhibited similar distribution patterns in wind erosion isolines. We also determined that the wind erosion rate for two fields estimated, based on equations developed from plot scale was acceptable. This study validates the feasibility of beryllium-7 measurements for soil-wind erosion field experiments and the potential to expand this approach to real field conditions.

Concepts: Sediment, Soil, Erosion, Wind, Silt, Loess, Loess Plateau, Aeolian processes

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The Late Cenozoic East Asian winter monsoon (EAWM) enhancement has been attributed to several factors, such as uplift of the Tibetan Plateau, retreat of the Paratethys Sea, and global cooling related to polar ice volume increment. However, the fundamental forcing factors remain enigmatic due to the absence of long and continuous climate records and sensitive indicators. Here we reanalyzed the published grain-size record of Sikouzi fine sediments in the western Chinese Loess Plateau through end-member (EM) modeling. The results indicate that EM 2 with grain-size peaks between 10-100 μm decreased in content from 20.1 to 17 Ma and stepwise increased from 17 to 0.07 Ma during the following six stages (17-15 Ma, 15-12 Ma, 12-8 Ma, 8-6 Ma, 6-4 Ma and 4-0 Ma). Such varying trends can be successively correlated in seven stages with the integrated benthic δ18O record, implying that global warming weakened the EAWM from 20.1 to 17 Ma and global cooling has stepwise strengthened the EAWM since 17 Ma. Therefore, we conclude that global temperature change played a major role on the evolution of EAWM during the Neogene period. By contrast, Late Cenozoic palaeogeographic reorganization caused by uplift of the Tibetan Plateau and retreat of the Paratethys Sea contributed less to the evolutionary evolution of EAWM. Spectral analysis of the EM 2 data first provided direct evidence of orbitally influenced deposition in the study area and thus the EAWM variations during the Neogene period. The 100-kyr period became weak since ~10 Ma, possibly due to the decrease in sensitivity of a more stable, continental-scale ice sheet in Antarctica to local insolation forcing, deserving further investigation.

Concepts: Climate, Climate change, Erosion, Monsoon, Global warming, Pliocene, Miocene, Loess Plateau