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Peer-Review Record

Dynamic Changes of Soil Erosion in the Taohe River Basin Using the RUSLE Model and Google Earth Engine

Water 2020, 12(5), 1293;
by Hao Wang 1 and Hu Zhao 1,2,*
Reviewer 1: Anonymous
Reviewer 2: Anonymous
Reviewer 3: Anonymous
Reviewer 4: Anonymous
Water 2020, 12(5), 1293;
Submission received: 3 March 2020 / Revised: 29 April 2020 / Accepted: 30 April 2020 / Published: 2 May 2020
(This article belongs to the Section Water Quality and Contamination)

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The article is written in a way that is difficult to read especially the result chapter

Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you for your Suggestions. As my native language is Chinese, there may be some differences in language expression. I have tried my best to correct my English before submitting the manuscript. At the same time, I looked for the MDPI team to polish the English. This is my English polish proof.


Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 2 Report

The tile is in note form apparent in the text)and use of upper and lower case needs checking - a good English user should check through once this is reworked and checked. The Abstract should make clear what is novel/new in theory or method - there is application of well established tools but is this application a new form of usage or is it just being used in the region for the first time? The aims could be clearer and more concise. The significance of findings should be stressed.

Interesting, but perhaps more for the region than subtropical geomorphology in general? Is this sufficiently focused on water - it is a soil erosion model/monitoring and use of remote sensing ms, rather than one looking at water issues. So, should it go to a soil erosion or remote sensing or runoff control journal - does it really 'fit' Water enough?

Science should be free of politic/gender/race, etc - which makes Fig 1 an issue because it has disputed territory.

A potentially useful manuscript which needs some checking and revision. Perhaps better sent to a soil erosion jnl.?

I hope it progresses and is well received when revised.








Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you for your Suggestions.

    On the one hand, I have tried my best to correct my English before submitting the manuscript. At the same time, I looked for the MDPI team to polish the English.. On the other hand, On the other hand, I have modified the abstract as you suggested. The modified part is marked in red.

    This article is mainly about soil erosion and remote sensing, but the scope of water journal covers soil erosion and sediment migration, so I think this article is also suitable for this journal.

    I have revised figure 1 according to your opinion to avoid the influence of politics and other aspects.

Reviewer 3 Report

Dear Authors,

Combination of the Google Earth Engine and RUSLE model to study the spatial and temporal changes of soil erosion in Taohe River Basin is very interesting. Investigation methodology and results are explained in detail. 

I have only two little remarks that You can change: 

- Add the source of Table 2, source [32].

- Add soil erosion modulus (micro... to... violent) in the legend of Figure 6. 

The paper is appropriate for Water journal and it can be accepted after this two changes are adopted.
Kind regards, 

Author Response

Dear reviewer, thank you for your Suggestions.

I have modified the table 2 and figure 6 as your suggestions.

Reviewer 4 Report

The abstract is rather long and has many unnecessary words (usually meant to be 150 words). “Using the Google Earth Engine for the first time” – who is using it for the first time? Data is quoted with a spurious precision (e.g. 1423.76 t/(km2 a)). The question of error is always important but one can not get down to the second decimal point. The units would be better given as tonnes km-2 year-1.

In the body of the text – “According to relevant data” – give the reference for this please. The concept of “soil loss tolerance” – what is this?

The writing shows the difficulties of a non-English speaker writing in English and needs a good edit by an English speaker. In particular, use of “the” can be confusing both to the author and the reader. The authors place a high value on the RUSLE model – a view not shared by this critic because of the difficulty of interpretation of parameters. Although the work of the authors is an interesting step, I think that both the authors and readers need to be very critical of what is being produced.

I worry about equations like (2) and (3) – where does it come from? How do we know it works? Do the maps in Figure 2 to 5 correlate with other people’s experience? The “Van der Knijff Experiment” .. what is this? Is it referenced at all?

Tables 3 and 4 are informative but need to be rounded and dealt with consistently. Thus “violent erosion” is quoted to zero decimal places in some cases and two decimal places in other places. I think that realistically it could be reduced to the nearest hundreds of tonnes. Reading text after Figure 8 gets difficult because it is mainly numbers.

Overall, the paper is an interesting application of modern technology using an approach I personally dislike. The authors have done a good job in this and in presenting their results. The key question, which is unconsidered by them, is do the results correlate with field observations? All of this data has been fed into the computers and it produces lots of maps, etc – but how close to “truth” is this. From that point of view I view the results as being an interesting experiment in computing, but not really a test of what is happening in the Taohe River Basin.

My recommendation is that the authors be asked to respond to some of the points raised here and that it then be published. There is no reference to field experience or field observations and I think that, as such, the paper can only be viewed as a very tentative exploration .presenting a possible methodology.

Author Response

Dear reviewer, thank you for your comments.

I have simplified the abstract and corrected the data and units according to your suggestions.

The reference of this sentence is [3]. “Soil loss tolerance” refers to the maximum amount of soil loss under the condition that soil productivity does not decline for a long time.

My first language is Chinese, but when I submit the article, I have polished it. This is my English polish proof. If there is still a big problem with the language, I will look for a professional team to modify and polish it again.

Formulas 2 and 3 are from references [6] and [25], both of which are obtained by other scholars through a large number of experiments. It has also been recognized and applied in the discipline of soil and water conservation. Figure 2 is calculated according to the precipitation station data. Figure 5 is based on other people’s experience and land use data of the study area. Van der Knijff Experiment” refers to the experiment of scholar Van der knijff on soil erosion. I revised this sentence of the article.

I have modified table 3 and table 4 as you requested. In the text after figure 8, I mainly analyzed the transfer matrix of soil erosion intensity, which is difficult to understand due to the language expression and data reasons, but it is the contents of tables 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9.

This article really wants to provide a new method to investigate soil erosion. It is an exploration in soil erosion. At present, due to the limited personal ability, it has not been able to conduct field investigation. I will continue to work hard. In a word, thank you very much for your review.


Round 2

Reviewer 1 Report

Dear Authors,

I still do not understand why you put Figure 2 presented resualt of Rainfall Erosivity Factor (R) in chapter 3.3.2 entitled Soil Erodibility Factor (K) and Figure 3 in the end of 3.3.5. called Conservation Measure Factor (P).

You formulated first four conclusions without any try of explanations probable reasons. You should try add your conclusions.


Best regards

Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you for your comments. The figure of each chapter in the article has been put at the end of the corresponding chapter. It has been modified according to your requirements.

    In the conclusion, I added some explanations. It has been marked in red font.

Reviewer 2 Report

Some improvement. However, I will be blunt to try and aid you - this has not been sufficiently carefully checked - a quick read shows a lot of minor typos and a need for English editing remains. It is not easy producing good English when it is not the first language of the author(s) - I appreciate that. Hopefully the journal will be willing to do some copy editing. Many journals would return this manuscript and ask for the presentation to be improved before any refereeing.

Referees increasingly refuse manuscripts they are invited to review, especially if they get some that reappear as revised versions with limited improvement - the system relies on unpaid referee goodwill. This affects all authors, not just those producing problem manuscripts, and this is why I am being critical. 

Some selected remaining issues:

Title:  the Taohe    the RUSLE    still not revised 

Last line of page 1 Geological Survey   G  S    The ms has a tendency to note form and the use of uppercase and lowercase is erratic. Ask a good English user to check or use an editing service.


Pole strong erosion ?  is this  serious erosion concentrated at a place?     

Violent erosion ?      should it be    Marked   or  Extreme   or  Serious....? You need to explain the terms somewhere at outset.

I took one Reference at random (No 2) and found it was not cited anywhere in the text! Readers could conclude that if citations are faulty then the research may be too.....


Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you for your comments. I have found a professional team to check the article according to your requirements. The following is my English polish proof. The modified statements are also marked in red.

    I have explained this terminology in table 2 of the article.

    References (No 2) are cited in the introduction. It reads as follows: “Serious soil erosion threatens the production and the life of human beings, which has become an environmental problem faces by human beings all over the world [2]”.

    The original text in reference(No 2) reads "Soil erosion is currently the major contributor to the degradation of the global soil resource" and “soil erosion also has enormous implications for our everyday world” Therefore, I think that soil erosion threatens the production and life of human beings and has become one of the environmental problems.

Author Response File: Author Response.pdf

Reviewer 3 Report

Dear Authors,

after few minor corrections, paper in present form can be published and it is very interesting for readers in Water jorunal.

Kind regards,


Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you very much for your recognition of my article.

    Kind regards,

Reviewer 4 Report

Not much change from my last review. I do worry that there is little field input and I have never been very impressed by the "Universal Soil Loss Equation" as having much scientific backing. However I suggest the authors put it out to the world and see what the world makes of it.

Author Response

    Dear reviewer, thank you very much for your recognition of my article. "Revised Universal Soil Loss Equation" has a strong scientific background. Reference [9] is about the source and explanation of the RUSLE.

Round 3

Reviewer 2 Report

My concerns have been addressed

Author Response

Dear reviewer,

Thank you for your Suggestions.Thank you for your recognition of my article.

Kind regards

This manuscript is a resubmission of an earlier submission. The following is a list of the peer review reports and author responses from that submission.

Round 1

Reviewer 1 Report

The idea of the article is interesting for a readers especially due to used geoinformation method. Unfortunately in my opinion the biggest disadvantages of presented manuscript is lack of field data. The authors informed about data source but it is impossible to verify quality presented data source. In case no data measured in field it is very important to confirmed quality of data source
The Authors have in no way confirmed the results of their research but they assumed that the results obtained were correct. They did not compared the results with field measurements. It is known that, for example, average rainfall per month can be very different in terms of rainfall intensity, and thus can have different influent on erosion. This has not been commented. No any error were appointed for the presented method.

Below you can find some small comments

Line 104 R the unit is not explained

Figure 2 should be before 3.3.2. section

Figure 4 should be in the end of 3.3.4. Vegetation Cover Factor (C)

Reviewer 2 Report

Questions for authors:

What is the relative error associated with your erosion model? 

What is an appropriate level of precision to report your data with?

Was the model calibrated with erosion data from the field?

The 'LS' factor in the RUSLE model is a combined term for slope length and slope steepness. How did you determine appropriate slope lengths to use if Google Earth Engine was used?

The 'C' factor is typically determined by determining an average value based on known cropping history of agricultural land. How did you compute C factors without knowing cropping history for ag land?  

What is an appropriate level of precision to report your data with?

How did you achieve a 30 m resolution for erosion modeling if a scale of 1:100000 was used for soil organic matter content and soil erodibility factor (K)?

What were the maximum and minimum slope values that were used in the model? 

Why did you present results in the methods section? 

How did you determine the different erosion classes and what is the range of erosion rates associated with each category?

What is meant by the term 'modulus'? Do you mean "model"? 


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