To study the influence of different vegetation species and plant properties on the generation of surface runoff and soil erosion in south east Spain, a series of rainfall simulation experiments was conducted on small (c. 1.5 m2) plots. These were carried out in October 1993 and May 1994 on two sites close to Murcia. Six vegetation types were studied, with some at different stages of maturity, giving a total of nine vegetation treatments and two bare soil treatments. Four replicates of each treatment were exposed to a rainstorm of 120 mm/h for 15 minutes. The results of the experiments show that there are few significant differences in the ability of the vegetation types studied to control runoff or soil erosion. Of the plant properties considered, only plant canopy cover showed a significant relationship with soil loss and runoff with the greatest reduction in soil loss taking place at canopy covers greater than 30%. The implications of this research are that future efforts should be directed at developing ecological successions and revegetation methods which promote a substantial and sustainable canopy cover.