Resource Details

Restoring dense vegetation can slow mountain erosion to near natural benchmark levels

Literature: Journal Articles Available at NO COST

Vanacker, V., von Blanckenburg, F., Govers, G., Molina, A., Poesen, J., Deckers, J., & Kubik, P. 2007. "Restoring dense vegetation can slow mountain erosion to near natural benchmark levels", Geology, vol. 35, no. 4, pp. 303-306.


  • Institute for Mineralogy, University of Hannover, Callinstrasse 3, 30167 Hannover, Germany
  • Physical and Regional Geography, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
  • Division of Soil and Water Management, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Celestijnenlaan 200E, 3001 Heverlee, Belgium
  • Paul Scherrer Institute, Institute of Particle Physics, ETH Hoenggerberg, CH-8093 Zurich, Switzerland


Available free of cost from the Geologic Society of America


  • In this study, researchers created soil runoff benchmarks (from geologic data) to compare the sediment yields from natural vegetation and cultivated land in the Ecuadorian Andes.
  • The authors argue that benchmarks are necessary because you cannot just compare the runoff of a disturbed site with that of a natural site because sediment fluxes are so episodic. Instead, geological benchmarks can be used to estimate the long term denudation rates, and are calculated using the cosmogenic nuclides of river sediments. Indeed, upon calculating benchmark sedimentation rates, they found that the rates were independent of land use, with an average of 149 +- 81 tons / km^2 / year.
  • The authors then compared this benchmark value with accumulated sediment in 106 different reservoirs. Land use in the 13 watersheds was determined using aerial photos (to asses forest cover).  
  • They found that sedimentation varied greatly among the watersheds, with the denuded watershed showing sedimentation rates more than 10 times that of the geologic benchmark.
  • They also find that disturbed watersheds, as long as they are well covered (in this case with exotic eucalyptus and pine plantations), have low sediment runoff, comparable to that of natural forest and the geologic benchmark.
  • Although this study does not mention native reforestation specifically, authors conclude that reforestation of any kind can significantly reduce erosion.   

Geographical Region

  • Andean Region
  • Ecosystems

  • Montane Forest
  • Country

  • Ecuador
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