• Soil loss;
  • rainfall simulation;
  • bare soils;
  • rock fragment cover;
  • run-off generation


It is known that rock fragments on the surface of soils can enhance infiltration and protect the soil against rainfall erosion. However, the effect of rock fragments in natural forest soils is less well understood. In this article, we studied the influence of rock fragment cover on run-off, infiltration and interrill soil erosion under simulated rainfall on natural bare soils in a Spanish dehesa (managed holm oak woodland). We studied 60 plots with different rock fragment cover ranging from 3% to 85% under three simulated rainfall intensities (50, 100 and 150 mm/h). Surface run-off appeared later and sediment yield values were smaller in soils with greater rock fragment cover. Rock fragment cover also increased infiltration rates. The final infiltration rates were 54–98% at a rainfall intensity of 50 mm/h, 31–88% at 100 mm/h and 20–80% at 150 mm/h. The interrill soil loss rates were decreased by rock fragment cover and increased with rainfall intensity. The soil loss rate was always small (0.02–1 Mg ha/h) when rock fragment cover was 75% or more. Rock fragment cover was related to soil loss rate by an exponential function.