Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2013, Vol. 5 Issue (4): 542-551    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-013-0186-7
Research Articles     
Root characteristics of Alhagi sparsifolia seedlings in response to water supplement in an arid region, northwestern China
DongWei GUI1,2,3, FanJiang ZENG1,2,3*, Zhen LIU2, Bo ZHANG1,2,3
1 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
2 Cele National Station of Observation & Research for Desert-Grassland Ecosystem in Xinjiang, Cele 848300, China;
3 Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
Download:   PDF(492KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      

Abstract  The effect of variation in water supply on woody seedling growth in arid environments remain poorly known. The subshrub Alhagi sparsifolia Shap. (Leguminosae), distributed in the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert, Xinjiang, northwestern China, has evolved deep roots and is exclusively dependent on groundwater, and performs a crucial role for the local ecological safety. In the Cele oasis, we studied the responses of A. sparsifolia seedling roots to water supplement at 10 and 14 weeks under three irrigation treatments (none water supply of 0 m3/m2 (NW), middle water supply of 0.1 m3/m2 (MW), and high water supply of 0.2 m3/m2 (HW)). The results showed that the variations of soil water content (SWC) significantly influenced the root growth of A. sparsifolia seedlings. The leaf area, basal diameter and crown diameter were significantly higher in the HW treatment than in the other treatments. The biomass, root surface area (RSA), root depth and relative growth rate (RGR) of A. sparsifolia roots were all significantly higher in the NW treatment than in the HW and MW treatments at 10 weeks. However, these root parameters were significantly lower in the NW treatment than in the other treatments at 14 weeks. When SWC continued to decline as the experiment went on (until less than 8% gravimetric SWC), the seedlings still showed drought tolerance through morphological and physiological responses, but root growth suffered serious water stress compared to better water supply treatments. According to our study, keeping a minimum gravimetric SWC of 8% might be important for the growth and establishment of A. sparsifolia during the early growth stage. These results will not only enrich our knowledge of the responses of woody seedlings to various water availabilities, but also provide a new insight to successfully establish and manage A. sparsifolia in arid environments, further supporting the sustainable development of oases.

Received: 12 November 2012      Published: 06 December 2013

The Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-EW-316), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41001171, 31070477, 30870471), the Western Light Foundation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (XBBS201105), and the Key Program of Joint Funds of the National Natural Science Foundation of China and the Government of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region of China (U1203201).

Corresponding Authors: FanJiang ZENG     E-mail:
Cite this article:

DongWei GUI, FanJiang ZENG, Zhen LIU, Bo ZHANG. Root characteristics of Alhagi sparsifolia seedlings in response to water supplement in an arid region, northwestern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(4): 542-551.

URL:     OR

Anyia A O, Herzog H. 2004. Water-use efficiency, leaf area and leaf gas exchange of cowpeas under midseason drought. European Journal of Agronomy, 20: 327–339.

Arredondo J T, Johnson D A. 2009. Root responses to short-lived pulses of soil nutrients and shoot defoliation in seedlings of three rangeland grasses. Rangeland Ecology Management, 62: 470–479.

Bruelheide H, Vonlanthen B, Jandt U, et al. 2010. Life on the edge–to which degree does phreatic water sustain vegetation in the periphery of the Taklamakan Desert? Applied Vegetation Science, 13: 56–71.

Buchanan-Wollaston V. 1997. The molecular biology of leaf senescence. Journal of Experimental Botany, 48: 181–199.

Cornelis W M, Ronsyn J, Meirvenne M V, et al. 2001. Evaluation of pedotransfer functions for predicting the soil moisture retention curve. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 65: 638–648.

Dias P C, Araujo W L, Moraes G A B K, et al. 2007. Morphological and physiological responses of two coffee progenies to soil water availability. Journal of Plant Physiology, 164: 1639–1647.

Gries D, Foetzki A, Arndt S K, et al. 2005. Production of perennial vegetation in an oasis-desert transition zone in NW China—allometric estimation, and assessment of flooding and use effects. Plant Ecology, 181: 23–43.

Gui D W, Lei J Q, Mu G J, et al. 2009. Effects of different management intensities on soil quality of farmland during oasis development in southern Tarim Basin, Xinjiang, China. International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology, 16: 295–301.

Gui D W, Lei J Q, Zeng F J, et al. 2010. Characterizing variations in soil particle size distribution in oasis farmlands—A case study of the Cele Oasis. Mathematical and Computer Modelling, 51: 1306–1311.

Guo H F, Zeng F J, Arndt S K, et al. 2008. Influence of floodwater irrigation on vegetation composition and vegetation regeneration in a Taklimakan desert oasis. Chinese Science Bulletin, 53: 156–163.

Hodge A. 2004. The plastic plant: root responses to heterogeneous supplies of nutrients. New Phytologist, 162: 9–24.

Jackson R B, Canadell J, Ehleringer J R, et al. 1996. A global analysis of root distribution for terrestrial biomes. Oecologia, 108: 389–411.

Li F, Bao W, Wu N, et al. 2008. Growth, biomass partitioning, and water-use efficiency of a leguminous shrub (Bauhinia faberi var. microphylla) in response to various water availabilities. New Forest, 36: 53–65.

Li X Y, Lin L S, Zhao Q, et al. 2010. Influence of groundwater depth on species composition and community structure in the transition zone of Cele oasis. Journal of Arid Land, 2: 235–242.

Liu B, Zeng F J, Guo H F, et al. 2009. Effects of groundwater table on growth characteristics of Alhagi sparisifoliz Shap. seedlings. Chinese Journal of Ecology, 28: 237–242.

Ma Y, Fan S, Zhou L, et al. 2007. The temporal change of driving factors during the course of land desertification in arid region of North China: the case of Minqin county. Environmental Geology, 51: 999–1008.

Maestre F T, Reynolds J F. 2007. Amount or pattern? Grassland responses to the heterogeneity and availability of two key resources. Ecology, 88: 501–511.

Maggio A, de Pascale S, Ruggiero C, et al. 2005. Physiological response of ?eld-grown cabbage to salinity and drought stress. European Journal of Agronomy, 23: 57–67.

Mao W, Zhang T H, Li Y L, et al. 2012. Allometric response of perennial Pennisetum centrasiaticum Tzvel to nutrient and water limitation in the Horqin Sand Land of China. Journal of Arid Land, 4: 161–170.

Nicotra A B, Babicka N, Westoby M. 2002. Seedling root anatomy and morphology: an examination of ecological differentiation with rainfall using phylogenetically independent contrasts. Oecologia, 130: 136–145.

Padilla F M, Pugnaire F I. 2007. Rooting depth and soil moisture control Mediterranean woody seedling survival during drought. Functional Ecology, 21: 489–495.

Padilla F M, Miranda J D, Pugnaire F I. 2007. Early root growth plasticity in seedlings of three Mediterranean woody species. Plant and Soil, 296: 103–113.

Padilla F M, Miranda J D, Jorquera M J, et al. 2009. Variability in amount and frequency of water supply affects roots but not growth of arid shrubs. Plant Ecology, 204: 261–270.

Ryster P. 2006. The mysterious root length. Plant and Soil, 286: 1–6.

Sala O E, Lauenroth W K. 1982. Small rainfall events: an ecological role in semiarid regions. Oecologia, 53: 301–304.

Schenk H J, Jackson R B. 2005. Mapping the global distribution of deep roots in relation to climate and soil characteristics. Geoderma, 126: 129–140.

Seyfried M S, Schwinning S, Walvoord M A, et al. 2005. Ecohydrological control of deep drainage in arid and semiarid regions. Ecology, 86: 277–287.

Siebert S, Gries D, Zhang X, et al. 2004. Non-destructive dry matter estimation of Alhagi sparsifolia vegetation in a desert oasis of Northwest China. Journal of Vegetation Science, 15: 365–372.

Thomas F M, Arndt S K, Bruelheide H, et al. 2000. Ecological basis for a sustainable management of the indigenous vegetation in a central-asian desert: presentation and first results. Journal of Applied Botany, 74: 212–219.

Thomas F M, Foetzki A, Arndt S K, et al. 2006. Water use by perennial plants in the transition zone between river oasis and desert in NW China. Basic and Applied Ecology, 7: 253–267.

Thomas F M, Foetzki A, Gries D, et al. 2008. Regulation of the water status in three co-occurring phreatophytes at the southern fringe of the Taklamakan Desert. Journal of Plant Ecology, 1: 227–235.

Villagra P E, Cavagnaro J B. 2006. Water stress effects on the seedling growth of Prosopis argentina and Prosopis alpataco. Journal of Arid Environments, 64: 390–400.

Vonlanthen B, Zhang X, Bruelheide H. 2010. On the run for water–root growth of two phreatophytes in the Taklamakan Desert. Journal of Arid Environments, 74: 1604–1615.

Vonlanthen B, Zhang X, Bruelheide H. 2011. Establishment and early survival of five phreatophytes of the Taklamakan Desert. Flora, 206: 100–106.

Waisel Y, Eshel A, Kafkafi U. 1996. Plant Roots–The Hidden Half. New York: Marcel Dekker, Inc.

Xu B C, Deng X P, Zhang S Q, et al. 2010. Seedling biomass partition and water use efficiency of switchgrass and milkvetch in monocultures and mixtures in response to various water availabilities. Environmental Management, 46: 599–609.

Yin C Y, Duan B L, Wang X, et al. 2004. Morphological and physiological responses of two contrasting poplar species to drought stress and exogenous abscisic acid application. Plant Science, 167: 1091–1097.

Zeng F J, Bleby T M, Landman P A, et al. 2006. Water and nutrient dynamics in surface roots and soils are not modi?ed by short-term ?ooding of phreatophytic plants in a hyperarid desert. Plant and Soil, 279: 129–139.

Zeng F J, Guo H F, Liu B, et al. 2009. Response of ecological properties of roots of Alhagi sparsifolia shap. seedlings to different irrigation treatments. Arid Zone Research, 26: 852–858.

Zeng F J, Lu Y, Guo H F, et al. 2012. Ecological characteristics of Alhagi sparsifolia Shap. seedling roots under different irrigation treatments. Russian Journal of Ecology, 43: 196–203.

Zhang K, Tian C Y, Li C J. 2012. Root growth and spatio-temporal distribution of three common annual halophytes in a saline desert, northern Xinjiang. Journal of Arid Land, 4: 330–341.

No related articles found!