Preliminary Characterization of Underground Hydrological Processes under Multiple Rainfall Conditions and Rocky Desertification Degrees in Karst Regions of Southwest China

Guijing Li, Matteo Rubinato, Long Wan, Bin Wu, Jiufu Luo, Jianmei Fang, Jinxing Zhou

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6 Citations (Scopus)
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Karst regions are widely distributed in Southwest China and due to the complexity of their geologic structure, it is very challenging to collect data useful to provide a better understanding of surface, underground and fissure flows, needed to calibrate and validate numerical models. Without characterizing these features, it is very problematic to fully establish rainfall–runoff processes associated with soil loss in karst landscapes. Water infiltrated rapidly to the underground in rocky desertification areas. To fill this gap, this experimental work was completed to preliminarily determine the output characteristics of subsurface and underground fissure flows and their relationships with rainfall intensities (30 mm h−1, 60 mm h−1 and 90 mm h−1) and bedrock degrees (30%, 40% and 50%), as well as the role of underground fissure flow in the near-surface rainfall–runoff process. Results indicated that under light rainfall conditions (30 mm h−1), the hydrological processes observed were typical of Dunne overland flows; however, under moderate (60 mm h−1) and high rainfall conditions (90 mm h−1), hydrological processes were typical of Horton overland flows. Furthermore, results confirmed that the generation of underground runoff for moderate rocky desertification (MRD) and severe rocky desertification (SRD) happened 18.18% and 45.45% later than the timing recorded for the light rocky desertification (LRD) scenario. Additionally, results established that the maximum rate of underground runoff increased with the increase of bedrock degrees and the amount of cumulative underground runoff measured under different rocky desertification was SRD > MRD > LRD. In terms of flow characterization, for the LRD configuration under light rainfall intensity the underground runoff was mainly associated with soil water, which was accounting for about 85%–95%. However, under moderate and high rainfall intensities, the underground flow was mainly generated from fissure flow.
Original languageEnglish
Article number594
Number of pages13
Issue number2
Early online date18 Feb 2020
Publication statusPublished - 21 Feb 2020

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The research was supported by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities of China (BLX201709), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31870707; 31700640), and the National Basic Research Program of China (2016YFC0502502; 2016YFC0502504).


  • rock–soil contact area
  • fissure flow
  • karst rocky desertification;
  • runoff
  • rainfall simulation
  • Fissure flow
  • Rainfall simulation
  • Rock-soil contact area
  • Runoff
  • Karst rocky desertification

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology
  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Aquatic Science
  • Biochemistry


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