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Science of the Total Environment 574 (2017) 34–45

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Science of the Total Environment

journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/scitoten v

The influence of changes in land use and landscape patterns on soil

erosion in a watershed
Shanghong Zhang a,⁎, Weiwei Fan a, Yueqiang Li a, Yujun Yi b
Renewable Energy School, North China Electric Power University, Beijing 102206, China
State Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation and Pollution Control, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China


• The relation between soil erosion and

land use patterns was studied.
• Multiple linear regression method was
used to obtain the relation.
• The four main contributing landscape
indices were highlighted by regression
• The large patch index was the most im-
portant landscape index affecting soil
• It is not feasible to obtain the soil ero-
sion amount from landscape metrics

a r t i c l e i n f o a b s t r a c t
Article history: It is very important to have a good understanding of the relation between soil erosion and landscape patterns so that
Received 13 May 2016 soil and water conservation in river basins can be optimized. In this study, this relationship was explored, using the
Received in revised form 22 August 2016
Liusha River Watershed, China, as a case study. A distributed water and sediment model based on the Soil and Water
Accepted 4 September 2016
Assessment Tool (SWAT) was developed to simulate soil erosion from different land use types in each sub-basin of
Available online 12 September 2016
the Liusha River Watershed. Observed runoff and sediment data from 1985 to 2005 and land use maps from 1986,
Editor name: D. Barcelo 1995, and 2000 were used to calibrate and validate the model. The erosion modulus for each sub-basin was calculated
from SWAT model results using the different land use maps and 12 landscape indices were chosen and calculated to
Keywords: describe the land use in each sub-basin for the different years. The variations in instead of the absolute amounts of
Landscape pattern index the erosion modulus and the landscape indices for each sub-basin were used as the dependent and independent var-
Soil erosion iables, respectively, for the regression equations derived from multiple linear regression. The results indicated that the
SWAT model variations in the erosion modulus were closely related to changes in the large patch index, patch cohesion index, mod-
Liusha River Watershed ified Simpson's evenness index, and the aggregation index. From the regression equation and the corresponding land-
Regression analysis
scape indices, it was found that watershed erosion can be reduced by decreasing the physical connectivity between
patches, improving the evenness of the landscape patch types, enriching landscape types, and enhancing the degree
of aggregation between the landscape patches. These findings will be useful for water and soil conservation and for op-
timizing the management of watershed landscapes.
© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

⁎ Corresponding author.
E-mail address: zhangsh928@126.com (S. Zhang).

0048-9697/© 2016 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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1. Introduction to examine the response of soil erosion to landscape patterns. However,

there is no consistent standard method of selecting landscape metrics,
Water and soil loss in catchments leads to a range of problems, such which means that studies arrive at different conclusions, and to date
as extensive sediment deposition in river channels and reservoirs, de- there is no universal conclusion. For example, since soil erosion is affect-
clines in soil fertility, and environmental pollution (Munro et al., ed by multiple factors, such as precipitation, land use, soil, and topogra-
2008). It is, therefore, important to study the various factors that influ- phy, the question remains as to whether soil erosion can be quantified
ence soil and water loss to develop and implement effective measures directly from landscape indices alone.
for soil and water conservation at the watershed level. Watershed ero- The objectives of this study were to (1) determine the influence
sion is related to many factors, including rainfall processes and variation of land use patterns on watershed erosion, (2) derive a relation be-
in the watershed surface, such as land use, soil, terrain, and topography tween watershed erosion and landscape metrics at the landscape
(Ni et al., 2008; Ochoa et al., 2016; Saedi et al., 2016). Rainfall, soil types, level by combining ecologically significant landscape metrics, and
and topography in a watershed do not change significantly in the short- (3) establish a robust basis for soil and water conservation in
term, which means that human activities, through changes in land use, watersheds.
are the main influence on changes in watershed erosion.
There are two main ways by which land use can modify watershed 2. Study area
erosion. Watershed erosion may be changed by modifying the land
use type; for example, cultivated land may be returned to forest and The Liusha River is in the transition zone of the Sichuan Basin and the
grassland, so that erosion decreases (Zhang et al., 2014). The land use Western Sichuan Plateau. It is a tributary of the Dadu River, and it runs
distribution pattern, known as landscape and land use morphology, from north to south through the city of Ya'an, Sichuan Province, China.
may also be changed, resulting in changes in erosion. Land use types The Liusha River Watershed covers 1150 km2 and lies between 102°
and landscape morphology both play an important role in soil erosion 16′–102°45′E and 29°19′–29°43′N. Its source is in the Shanzi Moun-
(Qi et al., 2012; Wang et al., 2009a). tains, which has an elevation of 3300 m, and an elevation difference of
Many studies have examined changes in watershed erosion related 2545 m between the highest and lowest points in the watershed
to changes in land use types. For example, Hao et al. (2004) used the (Fig. 1).
Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) in the Yellow River basin and The Liusha River Watershed has a subtropical climate. The water-
found that forestation decreased the sediment yield, and that increases shed is characterized by mountain ranges, steep slopes, and deep valleys
in the amount of land used for agriculture increased the sediment yield. (Xiang and Tang, 2006). The climate is dry and windy, and there is abun-
Ouyang et al. (2010) established the relation between soil erosion and dant annual sunshine. The average annual precipitation is 726 mm, of
sediment yield with the normalized difference vegetation index and which 80%–90% falls during the monsoon season (June–September).
showed that the vegetation status had a significant impact on soil ero- The average annual runoff is 469 mm, the average annual sediment
sion and transport. Ciampalini et al. (2012) studied soil erosion in re- transport rate is 59.9 kg/s, and topsoil losses are as much as
sponse to historical changes in agricultural and soil conservation 2.9 million m3/year. The valley area is the focus of agriculture in the wa-
practices in the Aksum area, and found that large areas of arable land tershed, and long-term soil erosion has resulted in decreases in soil fer-
were converted into grazing land resulting in significant increases in tility; ongoing land reclamation and human activities in the basin have
soil loss. Durán-Zuazoa et al. (2013) explored the impact of land-cover resulted in severe soil degradation (Yang, 2012).
types on soil erosion and runoff, and, by comparing different land use
types, demonstrated that erosion and runoff were lower from forest 3. Methods
dominated by Pinus than from abandoned farmland. There is general
agreement on how changes in land use types influence erosion; numer- 3.1. General study framework
ous studies have shown that soil and water losses are generally lower
from forest land than from cultivated land, grassland, and pasture Regression analysis was used to explore the impact of landscape pat-
(Feng et al., 2010; Nunes et al., 2011; Alatorre et al., 2012). terns on soil erosion. The sub-basin was used as the analysis unit to en-
Various researchers have studied the influence of land use morphol- sure there was sufficient sample data. The soil erosion of each sub-basin
ogy on erosion, and have provided case studies that report analysis of was simulated using the SWAT model, which is a continuous-time,
landscape patterns (Xiao and Ji, 2007; Liu and Yu, 2010; Huang et al., semi-distributed, process-based watershed scale model that was devel-
2013; Liu and Lu, 2011; Silva et al., 2015). Wei et al. (2006) studied oped to predict the impact of land management practices on water, sed-
the relationship between landscape patterns and soil erosion in an agri- iment, and chemicals (Arnold et al., 1998; Neitsch et al., 2011). The
cultural watershed in northern China where Mollisols dominated and landscape metrics of each sub-basin were calculated with Fragstats ver-
found that the multiple correlation coefficients between the nine select- sion 4.0, a widely accepted tool for quantifying landscape indices
ed landscape metrics and erosion were higher than the single-factor (McGarigal et al., 2012). Multiple linear regression was used in Statisti-
coefficients between any of the individual landscape indices and ero- cal Product and Service Solutions (SPSS) to fit the sample data, and then
sion. Wang et al. (2009b) used GIS and analysis of landscape indices to the implications of the regression equation were interpreted and
explore the relation between soil erosion and landscape patterns in discussed. Particular consideration was given to the following topics in
the Wuyuer River and concluded that for soil erosion control and man- this study:
agement, it was very important to regulate landscape patterns in crop- (1) Soil erosion simulation
land, grassland, and forestland. Ouyang et al. (2009) selected landscape The ArcGIS-ArcView extension and graphical user input inter-
metrics at the patch level to study the response of soil erosion dynamics face of SWAT, ArcSWAT, was used to establish and validate the dis-
to landscape patterns and indicated that contiguous grassland patches tributed hydrological model of the Liusha River Watershed for
reduced soil erosion yield and that larger areas of water led to more runoff and sediment data from 1986 to 2005, and the soil for erosion
soil erosion. Shi et al. (2013) used partial least-squares regression to of each sub-basin was simulated on the basis of land use maps that
link land cover patterns to soil erosion and sediment yield in a water- related to three different years (1986, 1995, and 2000). The erosion
shed and found that landscape characteristics, such as the Shannon di- modulus (= erosion/area) was used to eliminate the influence of
versity index (SHDI), aggregation index (AI), largest patch index (LPI), area on sub-basin soil erosion.
contagion (CONTAG), and patch cohesion index (COHESION) were the (2) Calculation of the sub-basin landscape pattern
main indices that influenced watershed soil erosion and sediment The key landscape pattern metrics were selected at the landscape
yield at the landscape level. Landscape indices have been widely applied level, and then the landscape pattern indices of the three land use
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Fig. 1. Liusha River Watershed, China.

scenarios (1986, 1995, and 2000) were calculated for each sub-basin model database (Winchell et al., 2013). Before and after the reclassifica-
with Fragstats version 4.0 software. tion, the scale and resolution of the land use maps were unchanged.
(3) Multiple linear regression analysis
The variation in the erosion modulus and the landscape metrics was 3.3. Model setup
calculated for each sub-basin. The variation in the erosion modulus was
taken as the dependent variable and the variation in the landscape indi- The meteorological and soil databases were assembled. There was a
ces was considered as the independent variable. The regression equa- threshold (8000 ha) for the source area in SWAT to derive the stream
tions from multiple linear regressions were used to examine the network and the Liusha River Watershed was divided into 63 sub-
relation between erosion and landscape metrics. basins by calculation of sub-basin parameters. The 1995 land use map
was set as the baseline case when the SWAT model was built. The
3.2. Data collection model was calibrated and validated with 26 years of observed data at
the watershed outlet. The first five years were used as the warm-up pe-
Sources of the spatial and attribute data and details about the accu- riod (1980–1984) of the model to ensure that the simulation was pre-
racy of the analysis are provided in Table 1. Land use maps for three dif- cise and stable. The calibration and validation simulation periods for
ferent years were used in this study (Fig. 2). On these maps, the land use runoff were from 1985 to 1994 and from 1995 to 2005, respectively.
was reclassified as Forest-Mixed (forest land and open forest land), The land use map was unchanged during these periods until a
Range-Brush (shrub land), Range-Grasses (high, middle, and low cover- satisfactory model was built. The results of the calibration and valida-
age grassland), Water (washland), Urban (urban land), Rice (mountain tion of the runoff and sediment simulations are shown in Figs. 3 and 4,
paddy field and Pingba paddy field), and Winter-Wheat (mountain dry respectively.
land and Pingba dry land) in ArcGIS. So the land use types in the study The coefficient of determination (R2) was used to evaluate the rela-
area were reclassified to correspond with the criteria of the SWAT tion between the measured and the simulated runoff and sediment

Table 1
SWAT input data and measured runoff and sediment yield data.

Data type Name Accuracy Source

Spatial data (measured) DEM 30 m resolution http://www.gscloud.cn

Land use map of Sichuan Province 1:100,000 http://www.geodata.cn
National soil type map 1:1,000,000 http://westdc.westgis.ac.cn
Meteorological data (simulated) Precipitation, Max & Min temperature, Daily Rainfall data: Six rainfall stations;
Relative humidity, Wind speed Meteorological data: Global Weather
Data for SWAT: http://globalweather.tamu.edu/
Hydrological data (measured) Runoff, Sediment Daily Liusha River station
Soil attribute database (simulated) Volume weight of soil, Harmonized World Soil Database
Wilting coefficient, Hydraulic conductivity
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Fig. 2. Land use maps for 1986, 1995, and 2000 for the Liusha River Watershed.
yield data, and the Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (Ens) was used to compare and + 22%, respectively, which indicates model underestimation bias.
the modeled values with the measured values (Nash and Sutcliffe, While during the calibration and validation periods for sediment yield,
1970). These are computed as follows: the PBIAS was + 22% and − 15%, respectively, which was a satisfactory
2 32
n 2 From the results of three evaluation index, the simulation results in-
2 6 ∑ i¼1 Q oi −Q avg Q pi −Q pavg dicated that the hydrological and sediment yield models developed in
R ¼ 7
n 2

4qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi qffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffiffi5 ð1Þ
n 2
∑ i¼1 Q oi −Q avg i¼1 Q pi −Q pavg
this study were suitable for analyzing variability in sediment yield
from this watershed.
n 2
∑i ¼1 Q −Q
oi pi
Ens ¼ 1− 3.4. Calculation of landscape pattern metrics
∑ni¼1 Q oi −Q avg ð2Þ
Fragstats version 4.0 was used to calculate the landscape pattern in-
where Qoi and Qpi are the observed and predicted values, respectively,
dices from the three grid files of land use for the three periods. More
Qavg and Qpavg are the mean values of the observed and predicted data
than 110 landscape metrics can be calculated for each land use grid.
respectively, and n is the number of the data values.
However, if all of the possible landscape pattern metrics had been con-
The monthly time scale was used to evaluate the model performance
sidered as effective variables for regression analysis, it would have
and the evaluation indicators showed that the results of the simulation
caused workload redundancy and introduced the curse of dimensional-
were good. The R2 and Ens values for runoff reached 0.96 and 0.71 for the
ity because of the linear relations between various metrics (Hargis et al.,
calibration period, and 0.95 and 0.80 for the validation period, respec- 1998). It is, therefore, important to select the most representative met-
tively. Using the same approach, the R2 and Ens values for sediment rics and those that are highly correlated with erosion. There are four
reached 0.93 and 0.79 for the calibration period, and 0.87 and 0.75 for kinds of landscape metrics at the landscape level in soil erosion re-
the validation period, respectively. In addition, the evaluation indicator search: aggregation metrics, area and edge metrics, shape metrics, and
percent bias (PBIAS) was introduced to assess the accuracy of sediment diversity metrics. Based on the landscape patch distribution, land use,
simulation. PBIAS measures the average tendency of the simulated data and soil boundary conditions, 12 suitable metrics were selected for
to be larger or smaller than their observed counterparts (Gupta et al.,
this study (Table 2). Changes in the landscape metrics were calculated
1999). PBIAS is computed as follows:
to correspond with changes in land use and were used as the indepen-

" n # dent variables for the regression analysis.

∑ Q −Q
i¼ 1 oi pi Correlation analysis for the variation of 12 landscape metrics was
n ∙100
done and the correlation coefficients between metrics are listed in
∑ i¼1 Q oi Table 3. The preliminary analysis revealed that most of the landscape
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In general, model simulation can be judged as satisfactory if PBIAS metrics were weakly correlated, and only 9% of the correlation coeffi-
± 55% for sediment and ± 25% for runoff (Moriasi et al., 2007). During cients were N 0.9. In general, the shape metrics (e.g., SHAPE_MN,
the calibration and validation periods for runoff, the PBIAS was + 40% FRAC_MN, and PAFRAC) were more independent than the other groups
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Fig. 3. Calibration and validation of the runoff simulation.

of metrics. Many of the diversity metrics (e.g., SHDI, MSIEI, and SHEI) study area, so the selected metrics reasonably represent landscape var-
were correlated among themselves. The diversity metrics includes two iations and, thus, were used as the variables for the multiple linear
categories of the Shannon's index and the Simpson's indices, and the regressions.
Shannon's indices were more sensitive to the rare patch type in the
landscape, while Simpson's index was more sensitive to the common 3.5. Multiple linear regression analysis
land cover types. In addition, both of the diversity metrics were highly
correlated with the contagion metric (CONTAG), the former use the pro- 3.5.1. Principle of multiple regression analysis
portions of the cover types and the number of classes to describe the Regression is used to explore the relations between different vari-
landscape diversity, while the latter describes the diversity by the adja- ables and a regression equation can quantitatively express the depen-
cency matrix in the landscape. However, these two kinds of metrics dence relation. Multiple linear regression can express the relation
expressed the different aspects of landscape heterogeneity in the between a dependent variable and more than one independent variable.

Fig. 4. Calibration and validation of the sediment simulation.

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The mathematical model can be expressed as follows: respectively. The F statistic was determined as follows:

> F¼ Sreg =m
ΔS ¼ β0 þ β1 ΔPD þ ⋯ þ βp ΔAI þ ε ð4Þ S = n−m−1
> res ð Þ
< n 2
Sreg ¼ ∑ ΔSi −Δ S ð6Þ
> i¼1

where the variation in the erosion modulus (ΔS) is a random observa- > n 2
: Sres ¼ ∑ ΔSi −Δ
tion, β0 is a constant term, and β1, …, βp are partial regression coeffi- Si
cients. βi(i = 1,2, …, p) relates the variation in the landscape indices to

the variation in the erosion modulus. A change of one unit in ΔPD ⋯

where Sreg is the sum of squares of the regression, S res is the sum of
ΔAI causes an average change in ΔS when the other independent vari-

ables remain unchanged. The number of landscape indices is p (here: squares of the residuals, dΔSi is the predicted value of the dependent var-
p ≤ 12), the observed number of samples is n, and the set of observed iable, ΔS is the mean value of the dependent variable, ΔSi is the observed
values for the first i (i = 1, 2…n) column (ΔSi, ΔPDi, …, ΔAIi). It is as- value of the dependent variable, m is the degrees of freedom of the re-
gression, n is the number of sample data, and n – m − 1 is the degrees
sumed there is a linear relation between (ΔPDi, …, ΔAIi) and ΔSi, the in- of freedom of the residuals. The results of variance analysis indicate that
dependent variable: the null hypothesis is rejected if F N F α (m, n-m-1), α = 0.15. It is assumed
there is a linear relation between the dependent variable and the inde-
ΔSi ¼ ΔSbi þ εi ¼ b0 þ b1 ΔPD þ ⋯ þ bp ΔAI þ εi ð5Þ pendent variable if the null hypothesis cannot be rejected, and the
established regression equation is assumed to be feasible.
(2) Hypothesis test of the partial regression coefficient
where εi is the residual error, which is the difference between the de- Once a statistically significant regression model is achieved, the rela-
pendent variable ΔSi and its estimated value ðΔSbi Þ. If the residual error tion between the independent variables and the dependent variables
is a function of the magnitude of the dependent variable and approxi- should be tested for linearity. This approach allows elimination of vari-
mates a normal distribution, it can be used to assess whether the regres- ables that are not statistically significant, and results in simpler regres-
sion equation has been established. The estimated sample values of β0, sion equations. The t-test is used to determine whether the partial
β1, …, and βp are b0, b1, …, and bp. regression coefficient is significantly different from to zero. The null hy-
pothesis of the T was H0: βi = 0 (i = 1, 2, 3, 4), and the null hypothesis
would be rejected if │T│ N T α/2(n − m − 1), α = 0.15.
3.5.2. Significance test

For regression analysis, the significance test of the equations and the ¼ b i −0 bi
T ¼ ð7Þ
variables can be used to judge the accuracy of the regression model. The Sbi Sbi
regression equation and the contribution of each independent variable

should be statistically significant to ensure that the multiple regression In Eq. (7), bi is the partial regression coefficient of the independent
equation is consistent with the characteristics of the data. So hypothesis variable, and Sbi is the standard error of bi.
testing is necessary for the established equation.
(1) Hypothesis test for the regression equation 3.5.3. Selection of independent variables
The F test was used as the hypothesis test for the regression equa- The stepwise regression method in the SPSS software was used to
tion. The null hypothesis is H0: β1 = β2 = …. = βp = 0, that is, no re- input the key variables into the regression equation and to select the in-
gression model can be established. Note, the number of the variable in dependent variables. Stepwise regression combines the characteristics
the regression equation increases from 1 in the process of stepwise re- of both the forward and backward regression methods; the difference
gression, and in this study the number of variable (p) is 1, 2, 3, and 4, between this method and multiple linear regression is that the variables

Table 2
Landscape metrics used in this study.

No. Metrics Abbreviation Description Category

1 Patch Density PD Number of patches per unit area (number per 100 ha) Aggregation
2 Largest Patch Index LPI Percentage of the landscape in the largest patch (units: percent) Area and
3 Edge Density ED Total length of all edge segments per hectare for the considered landscape (units: none) Area and
4 Mean Patch Size SHAPE_MN Patch perimeter divided by the minimum perimeter possible for a maximally compact patch (units: none) Shape
5 Mean Patch Fractal FRAC_MN Based on the fractal dimension of each patch (units: none) Shape
6 Perimeter Area Fractal PAFRAC Reflects shape complexity across a range of spatial scales (patch sizes) (units: none) Shape
7 Aggregation Index AI Number of like adjacencies involving the corresponding class, divided by the maximum possible number of like Aggregation
adjacencies involving the corresponding land use type (units: percent)
8 Contagion CONTAG Tendency of the patch types to be aggregated (units: percent) Aggregation
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9 Patch Cohesion Index COHESION Measures the physical connectedness of the corresponding patch type (units: none) Aggregation
10 Shannon's Diversity SHDI Based on information theory, indicates the patch diversity in a landscape (units: none) Diversity
11 Modified Simpson's MSIEI Modified Simpson's Evenness Index is expressed such that an even distribution of area among patch types results Diversity
Evenness Index in maximum evenness (units: none)
12 Shannon's Evenness SHEI Shannon's Evenness Index is expressed such that an even distribution of area among patch types results in Diversity
Index maximum evenness (units: none)
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in the equation are tested after each new variable is introduced, and the analysis in this study (3 samples from 1986 to 1995 and 17 samples
variables that match the exclusion criteria are eliminated one by one from 1995 to 2000).
(Neter et al., 1996; Fritz and Berger, 2015). The following method was As shown in Fig. 6, there were few substantial changes in the soil
used to select the independent variables: erosion modulus between the first two periods of land use (1986,
(1) The simple linear regression models (only include one variable) 1995), but there were significant changes between 1995 and 2000.
were fitted with 12 candidate independent variables (ΔPAFRAC, ΔSHEI, The most serious area of soil erosion was in the middle-lower reaches
…, ΔPD, respectively). Out of these, k = (k ≤ 12) linear regression of the Liusha River, where the erosion modulus was above 4 t/ha
models passed the F test and the corresponding independent variable (such as sub watershed No. 24, 39, 50, 55 and 58) and reached 28 t/ha
ΔLPI resulted in the model with the smallest p value and ΔLPI was intro- in the most serious area (sub watershed No. 53 sub-basin) over the 15
duced into the model first. study period. The soil erosion in 1986 and 1995 were more serious
(2) Once the model using the variable ΔLPI was fitted, the linear re- than 2000, and the average variation in the erosion modulus of the
gression models of the 11 extra independent variables were fitted, that sub-basin was 0.46 t/ha, and the maximum variation in the erosion
is, the independent variables were combined as ΔLPI and ΔPAFRAC, modulus of the sub-basins over the 15 years (1986–2000) was 3.52 t/ha.
ΔLPI and ΔSHEI, ΔLPI and ΔPD, and so on. The p value of ΔLPI and
ΔCOHESION was the smallest, and the linear regression model met 4.2. Regression analysis of changes in the erosion modulus
the standard of the F test, so the ΔCOHESION variable was added to
the model. Regression analysis was done in SPSS using the change in the 12 wa-
(3) The t-test was used to examine whether the independent vari- tershed landscape metrics as the independent variable and the change
able (ΔLPI) still had statistical significance, and if ΔLPI did not pass the in the erosion modulus in the 20 selected groups of sub-basins as the de-
t-test, it was removed from the model. The regression models of the ad- pendent variable, and four regression models were obtained (Table 4).
ditional 10 independent variables (except ΔLPI) including ΔCOHESION The R2 coefficient reflects the proportion of the variance of the original
were fitted and the combination of independent variables with the low- data that was explained by the regression equation. The R2 values for
est p values was added to the regression model. The operation was ter- the outputs of the four models were 0.601, 0.830, 0.854, and 0.883,
minated if no variables were statistically significant. and these values indicate that the fourth model was the best. However,
(4) If ΔLPI passed the t-test, it was still meaningful and the analysis the R2 coefficient has limitations when evaluating the model: the value
continued to fit the model with the other 10 variables, starting with the of R2 may still increase even if the introduced variable is not statistically
ΔLPI and ΔCOHESION variables. The rest of the variables were examined significant. Adjustments in the R2 value to account for the number of pa-
for statistical significance and the variable yielding the smallest p value rameters in the model provides guidance on the selection of new vari-
was added to the regression model. This process was repeated until the ables; the adjusted R2 value decreases when the introduced variable is
independent variables not included in the model were not statistically not statistically significant, so it compensates for limitations in R2 and
significant. is also an important indicator of the merits of the regression equation.
The flow chart of the regression analysis is shown in Fig. 5. In this study, the R2 and adjusted R2 both increased as the number of in-
dependent variables increased, which was a reasonable result.
Eight variables were excluded by model 4 and their test results are
4. Results listed in Table 5. In this study, the t-test was applied to the independent
variables at a significance level of 0.15 for α. As shown in Table 5, the
4.1. Sub-basin erosion calculation probability values (Sig. T) of the eight variables added to model 4 are
greater than 0.15, The variance inflation factor (VIF, the reciprocal of tol-
The soil erosion of each sub-basin for the three land use periods erance ) of the collinearity statistics is greater than 5 for some variables,
(1986, 1995, and 2000) was calculated with the established hydrologi- which indicates significant collinearity between variables, so these var-
cal and sediment yield model and the values for the three years were iables were excluded from the model.
converted into the erosion modulus (Fig. 6). There were 126 groups The model coefficient table obtained from SPSS is listed in Table 6,
(1986–1995 and 1995–2000, respectively) of changes in soil erosion including the coefficients of the model variables, the probability of the
for the 63 sub-basins over the three periods of land use. The historical t-test, and the collinearity statistics (tolerance and VIF). The probabili-
land use of the area indicated that there were no significant changes ties of the t-test for the constant and the four independent variables
at the sub-basin scale of the Liusha River Watershed, and some land were much b 0.15, which indicates that the variables are statistically sig-
use types didn't change at all over the 15 years study period (1986– nificant. The VIF values of the four variables are b 5, which indicates that
2000). If the changes in the sub-basin erosion modulus and landscape there was no obvious collinearity between the four independent vari-
pattern both were zero, these sub-basins would be eliminated from ables. Because the influence of the different units and dimensions of
the analysis, and so 20 sub-basins were selected for the regression the original variables were eliminated when the coefficients were

Table 3
Correlation analysis for 12 selected metrics in this study.


PD 1
LPI −0.060 1
ED 0.259 −0.324 1
SHAPE_MN −0.499 −0.165 0.219 1
FRAC_MN −0.138 0.036 0.192 0.861 1
CONTAG −0.050 0.596 −0.520 −0.316 −0.319 1
COHESION −0.429 0.585 −0.124 −0.256 −0.364 0.318 1
SHDI −0.027 − 0.634 0.397 0.293 0.262 − 0.985 −0.308 1
MSIEI −0.101 − 0.699 0.424 0.330 0.221 − 0.905 −0.343 0.919 1
AI −0.249 0.319 − 0.998 −0.204 −0.162 0.476 0.106 −0.355 −0.395 1
SHEI −0.004 −0.588 0.373 0.305 0.308 − 0.986 −0.318 0.995 0.905 −0.326 1
PAFRAC − 0.617 −0.521 0.233 0.350 −0.090 −0.358 0.162 0.421 0.454 −0.244 0.354 1

Note: The bold-faced numerical values indicate that the correlation coefficient is greater than 0.6.
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Fig. 5. The flow chart of the regression analysis.

standardized, standardized coefficients are used in this study to com- in this study was 0. The final multiple linear regression equation is
pare the contribution of the independent variables to the dependent
variables. The mean value of the standardized variable was 0 and the
ΔS ¼ −1:272ΔLPI þ 0:597ΔCOHESION−0:189ΔAI−0:285ΔMSIEI ð8Þ
standard deviation was 1, so the constant term of the fitted regression
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Fig. 6. Soil erosion modulus and variation for the three time periods.

The regression equation contains four landscape indices, which were △COHESION, △MSIEI, and △AI indices played an important role in the
calculated by Fragstats 4.0 using the following formulas: changes in the erosion modulus. Further, the change in the erosion
modulus was positively correlated with △COHESION, but negatively
max aij
correlated with △LPI, △MSIEI, and △AI.
LPI ¼ 100 ð9Þ
A Landscapes are composed of elements and spatial components. A
2 3 convenient and popular model for conceptualizing and representing

m n −1 the elements in a categorical map pattern (or patch mosaic) is known
6 i¼1 ∑ j¼1 1
COHESION 1− qffi ffiffiffiffi5 1− pffi ffiffi 100 ð10Þ as the patch-corridor-matrix model (Forman, 1995). Under this
4 m n
a 7 Z
¼ ∑
model, three major landscape elements are typically recognized, and
i¼1 ∑ j¼1 Pij ij the extent and configuration of these elements defines the pattern of
the landscape. The calculation and analysis of landscape pattern indices
AI ¼ ∑i¼1
Pi 100 ð11Þ
max→gii are based on this framework. Patches are the nonlinear surface region
with a homogeneous internal spatial structure and which is different
− ln ∑ P 2i
i ¼1
from the surrounding environment (matrix). Corridors are linear and
MSIEI ¼ ð12Þ banded landscape elements, as a consequence of their form and context,
structural corridors may function as channels, dispersal conduits, or bar-
where aij is the area (m2) of patch ij, A is the total landscape area (m2), Pi⁎j riers, which can be considered as the important bridge and link for dif-
is the perimeter of patch ij in terms of number of cell surfaces, ai⁎j is the ferent patches influencing the connectivity between them to a great
area of patch ij in terms of number of cells, Z is the total number of cells extent. A landscape is composed typically of several types of landscape
in the landscape, gii is the number of like adjacencies between pixels of elements (usually patches). Of course, the matrix is the most extensive
patch type (class) i based on the single-count method, max → gii is the and most connected landscape element type, and plays the dominant
maximum number of like adjacencies between pixels of patch type i, role in the functioning of the landscape. For example, at a particular
Pi is the proportion of the landscape comprised of patch type (class) i, scale, mature forest may be the matrix with disturbance patches em-
m is the number of patch types (classes) present in the landscape, ex- bedded within; whereas, at a coarser scale, agricultural land may be
cluding the landscape border if present. the matrix with mature forest patches embedded within. Next, the
The expected cumulative frequency and the observed cumulative four statistically significant landscape pattern indices are explained
frequency (P-P diagram) of the standardized residuals and the normal within the landscape ecology order.
probability distribution histogram were used to assess whether the re-
siduals εi were normally distributed. The P-P diagram of the standard-
ized residuals showed that there was a relation between the Table 4
cumulative probability of the expected and observed values (Fig. 7). Four regression models for change in erosion modulus determined from SPSS.
When combined with the normalized residual histogram, the residual

Model and variable R R2 Adjustment Standard error of the

error could be explained by the normal distribution (Fig. 8), and the of R2 estimate
multiple linear regression model was found to be feasible.
1st ΔLPI 0.775 0.601 0.579 0.546
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2nd ΔLPI, ΔCOHESION 0.911 0.830 0.810 0.367

5. Discussion 3rd ΔLPI, ΔCOHESION, Δ 0.924 0.854 0.826 0.351
4th ΔLPI, ΔCOHESION, 0.940 0.883 0.852 0.324
The multiple linear regression equation showed that out of the huge

number of landscape pattern indices, the variation in the △LPI,

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Table 5
T test and collinearity analysis for variables excluded from model 4.

Model Variable Beta In T Sig. T Partial Correlation Collinearity Statistics

Tolerance VIF

4 ΔPD 0.009 0.078 0.939 0.021 0.638 1.568

ΔED −2.072 −1.190 0.254 −0.303 0.003 398.963
ΔSHAPE_MN −0.009 0.091 0.929 0.024 0.824 1.214
ΔFRAC_MN −0.043 −0.363 0.722 −0.096 0.583 1.715
ΔCONTAG −0.075 −0.327 0.748 −0.087 0.156 6.409
ΔSHDI 0.126 0.553 0.589 0.146 0.157 6.364
ΔSHEI 0.073 0.333 0.744 0.089 0.174 6.364
ΔPAFRAC 0.043 0.298 0.770 0.079 0.405 2.472

The largest patch area in the landscape (LPI) has values that range conservation, which reminds us that water and soil resources need to
from 0 to 100, indicating the proportion of the total landscape area. be managed to suit local conditions. The regression analysis also indicat-
The regression equation shows that there is a strong negative correla- ed that increases in MSIEI over time resulted in decreases in erosion
tion between △S and △LPI, and sub watershed soil erosion was the modulus over time. As the proportion of land in the dominant land
most sensitive index to the LPI index, and the amount of the soil erosion use types—Forest-Mixed, Range-Brush, and Range-Grasses—increases
decreased with an increase of the index. The value of this metric reflects MSIEI also would increase because of higher values of Pi and possibly re-
the dominant species in the landscape and, to a certain degree, indicates duction in m. Thus, a decrease in sediment yield would be expected for
the direction and strength of the effects of human activities. Fig. 2 shows the study watershed as MSIEI increases. The AI indicates the degree of
that the dominant land uses in the watershed are Forest-Mixed, Range- fragmentation of patch type within a landscape; when AI approaches
Brush, and Range-Grasses. Each of these land uses is prone to lower sed- its maximum value, the landscape patch types are aggregated tightly to-
iment yields. Thus, the largest patch type in most sub watersheds gether and the degree of aggregation is at a maximum. Variation in the
should be one of these types of land use. Therefore, an increase in LPI in- erosion modulus (△S) was negatively correlated with △AI, which indi-
dicates an increase in Forest-Mixed, Range-Brush, or Range-Grasses cates that increases in the degree of landscape patch aggregation results
land use which results in a decrease in sediment yield. in reduced watershed erosion. The regression analysis also indicated
The Patch Cohesion Index (COHESION) can be used to measure the that increases in AI over time resulted in decreases in erosion modulus
landscape physical connectivity between the corresponding patch over time. Increases in AI would result from increases in the amount
types. As previously mentioned, corridors can be considered as the of land in the Forest-Mixed, Range-Brush, or Range-Grasses land use be-
bridge or link for various patches, and different corridor types will affect cause the adjacencies between pixels of these patch types also would in-
the connectivity between patches. Corridor types are divided into natu- crease. Hence, increases in the dominant land use types, which have
ral corridors (e.g., river, dam and shelterbelt) and artificial corridors lower sediment yields, would increase the value of AI and decrease
(e.g., green way, road network especially in urban landscapes), which the erosion modulus. On the one hand, afforestation, forage grass, and
make the patch boundary more obvious. Corridors have the functions planning for reafforestation on hillsides have positive implications for
of filtration; obstruction; interception; and barrier for energy, material water and soil conservation, wind-breaking, and sand-fixing, further-
and biological flow in the landscape, which will have a positive effect more, they increase vegetation cover and strengthen the degree of ag-
for the work of soil and water conservation in the basin. The multiple gregation by changing the micro-terrain. In arable areas, intercropping
linear regression equations showed that there was a positive correlation and mixing of crops could effectively enhance the degree of internal ag-
between △S and △COHESION, meaning that the amount of soil erosion gregation of patches and prevent soil loss at the same time, and could
increased as COHESION increased. This may reflect enhanced connectiv- also reap economic benefits.
ity between patches that promotes material transport as a result of ag- Because some research indicates that the soil erosion modulus could
ricultural measures for soil and water conservation, like furrow and be obtained directly from landscape metrics, the regression relation be-
ridge tillage and contour cultivation, or engineering measures, such as tween the soil erosion modulus and landscape metrics of the sub-basins
terraced fields and drainage ditches on slopes. These measures mainly was also examined for the three periods of land use. The same regres-
induce small-scale effects; for example, slope connectivity may be sion method was applied, except that the erosion modulus and land-
blocked to achieve the overall purpose of soil and water conservation scape metrics were regarded as the dependent and independent
and prevent waterlogging.
The modified Simpson's evenness index (MSIEI) is a landscape di-
versity index that reflects the number of patches in the landscape. In
this study, this index was negatively correlated with △S, meaning that
decreases in the evenness of the patch type resulted in an increase in
the amount of soil erosion. This study's results showed that because of
its rich diversity, the landscape was conducive to soil and water

Table 6
Model coefficients and t-test results for the variables.

Model Variable Standardized T Sig. T Collinearity

coefficients Statistics

Value Standard Tolerance VIF


4 Constant 0 0.081 −2.484 0.02500

ΔLPI −1.272 0.049 −8.710 0.00000 0.366 2.732
ΔCOHESION 0.597 1.210 5.352 0.00000 0.628 1.592
ΔAI −0.189 0.706 −1.937 0.07200 0.464 2.156
ΔMSIEI −0.285 4.768 −2.199 0.04400 0.817 1.224
Fig. 7. Normalized residual P-P diagram.
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