Variations in spatial patterns of soil-vegetation properties and the emergence of multiple resilience thresholds within different debris flow fan positions

Neda Mohseni, Seyed Reza Hosseinzadeh, Adel Sepehr, Mahmood Reza Golzarian, Farzin Shabani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Debris flow fans are non-equilibrium landforms resulting from the spatial variations of debris flows deposited on them. This geomorphic disturbance involving the asymmetric redistribution of water and sediment may create spatially heterogeneous patterns of soil-vegetation along landforms. In this research, founded on field-based observations, we characterized the spatial patterns of some soil (e.g., particle size distribution including fine and coarse covers, and infiltration capacity) and vegetation (e.g., plant distance, vegetation density, patch size, and average number of patches) properties within different debris flow fan positions (Upper, Middle, and Lower fan) located at the base of the Binaloud Mountain hillslope in northeastern Iran. Thereafter, using a mathematical model of dry land vegetation dynamics, we calculated response trends of the different positions to the same environmental harshness gradient. Field measurements of soil-vegetation properties and infiltration rates showed that the asymmetric redistribution of debris flow depositions can cause statistically significant differences (P < 0.05) in the spatial patterns of soil and eco-hydrological characteristics along different landform positions. The results showed that mean plant distance, mean vegetation density, and the average number of patches decreased as the coarse covers increased toward the Lower fan plots. Conversely, an increase in infiltration rate was observed. The simulation results on the aerial images taken from different positions, illustrated that positions with a heterogeneous distribution of vegetation patterns were not desertified to the same degree of aridity. Thus, the Middle and Lower positions could survive under harsher aridity conditions, due to the emergence of more varied spatial vegetation patterns than at the Upper fan position. The findings, based on a combined field and modeling approach, highlighted that debris flow as a geomorphic process with the asymmetric distribution of depositions on the gentle slope of an alluvial fan, can incur multiple resilience thresholds with different degrees of self-organization under stressful conditions over the spatial heterogeneities of soil-dependent vegetation structures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-375
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2017
Externally publishedYes


  • Debris flow fan
  • Resilience thresholds
  • Soil characteristics
  • Vegetation


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