Slope vegetation restoration is known to influence erosion in the Loess Plateau region in China. The ability of vegetation to mitigate soil erosion under extreme runoff, however, has not been studied in great detail in this region. Here, we examine five typical vegetation communities in the Loess Plateau region that originated from restoration efforts enacted at different times (1, 11, 15, 25, and 40 years). Water scouring experiments were carried out to monitor vegetation community succession and its effects on erosion. These results indicate that the sum of plant importance values increased from 260.72 to 283.06, species density increased from 2.5 to 4.5 per m2
, and the amount of litter and humus increased from 24.50 to 605.00 g/m2
during the 1 to 40 years of vegetation community succession. Root biomass and root diameter reached a maximum of approximately 10.80 mg·cm−3
and 0.65 mm at 40 years of recovery. Slope runoff velocity decreased by 47.89% while runoff resistance increased by 35.30 times. The runoff power decreased by 19.75%, the total runoff volume decreased by 2.52 times, and the total sediment yield decreased by 11.60 times in the vegetation community. Slope runoff velocity and power had the largest correlation with aboveground vegetation (0.76, 0.74), total runoff had the largest correlation with underground roots (0.74), and runoff resistance was most strongly correlated with soil structure (0.71). Studies have shown that the succession of vegetation communities can enhance the aboveground ecological functions of plants, thereby significantly reducing the runoff velocity and power. The development of plant root system significantly reduces the runoff volume; the improved soil structure significantly increased the runoff resistance coefficient.
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