Surface rock fragments retard overland flow discharge, reduce the runoff generation rate and soil erosion as well as nutrients loss. In Northwest China, a common method for minimizing water, soil, and nutrient losses is the use of rock fragment cover. We used lab stimulation testing to evaluate rock fragment cover efficacy for nutrient conservation. Nutrient losses were determined in both the runoff and sediments under three rain intensities (30, 60 and 90 mm·h−1), four rock fragment covers (0, 10, 20 and 30%) and a slope of 10°. The results showed that rock fragment cover significantly reduced the nutrient losses. Compared with the bare soil control, the rock fragment cover reduced the runoff volume and sediments by 18–38 and 11–69%, respectively, and reduced N and P losses by 9–43 and 16–70%, respectively. These results indicate that rock fragment cover is an effective method for reducing land degradation and improving local environmental conditions.

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