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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (2): 165-174    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0002-8
Research article     
Aggregate binding agents improve soil aggregate stability in Robinia pseudoacacia forests along a climatic gradient on the Loess Plateau, China
JING Hang1, MENG Min1, WANG Guoliang1,2, LIU Guobin1,2,*()
1State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Northwest A&F University, Yangling 712100, China
2Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Science and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling 712100, China
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The distribution of binding agents (i.e., soil organic carbon (SOC) and glomalin-related soil protein (GRSP)) in soil aggregates was influenced by many factors, such as plant characteristics and soil properties. However, how these factors affect binding agents and soil aggregate stability along a climatic gradient remained unclear. We selected the Robinia pseudoacacia L. forests from semi-arid to semi-humid of the Loess Plateau, China to analyze the plant biomass, soil physical-chemical properties, SOC and GRSP distribution in different sized soil aggregates. We found that from semi-arid to semi-humid forests: (1) the proportion of macro-aggregates (>0.250 mm) significantly increased (P<0.05), whereas those of micro-aggregates (0.250-0.053 mm) and fine materials (<0.053 mm) decreased and soil aggregate stability was increased; (2) the contents of SOC and GRSP in macro-aggregates and micro-aggregates significantly increased, and those in fine materials decreased; (3) the contribution of SOC to soil aggregate stability was greater than those of total GRSP and easily extractable GRSP; (4) soil properties had greater influence on binding agents than plant biomass; and (5) soil aggregate stability was enhanced by increasing the contents of SOC and GRSP in macro-aggregates and soil property was the important part during this process. Climate change from semi-arid to semi-humid forests is important factor for soil structure formation because of its positive effect on soil aggregates.

Key wordsbinding agents      glomalin      organic carbon      soil propertylture      soil aggregate stability     
Received: 27 March 2020      Published: 10 February 2021
Corresponding Authors: LIU Guobin     E-mail:
About author: LIU Guobin (E-mail:
Cite this article:

JING Hang, MENG Min, WANG Guoliang, LIU Guobin. Aggregate binding agents improve soil aggregate stability in Robinia pseudoacacia forests along a climatic gradient on the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(2): 165-174.

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Fig. 1 Location of the study sites. SM, Shenmu City; SD, Suide County; AS, Ansai District; CH, Chunhua County.
Site Latitude and
Altitude (m) Precipitation
Main plants Tree height (m) DBH (cm) Soil type
SM 38°44′46″N
1204.4 390.3 9.2 1336.6 Locust, yellow rose 6.91 18.18 Sand loess
SD 37°25′19″N
1178.3 410.5 10.1 2061.9 Locust, Miscanthus 7.44 16.33 Loess
AS 36°44′25″N
1110.9 506.5 9.2 1000.0 Locust, Miscanthus 12.35 17.35 Loess
CH 34°46′48″N
1276.5 585.7 10.6 520.0 Locust, Jujube 9.28 15.93 Loess
Table 1 Information of the study sites
Index Study site
N (mg/g) 0.31±0.059b 0.32±0.057b 0.33±0.033b 0.69±0.325a
P (mg/g) 0.51±0.017b 0.55±0.006ab 0.57±0.030a 0.56±0.050a
SOC (mg/g) 4.73±0.759b 3.01±0.349b 4.62±0.868b 9.63±4.791a
pH 8.40±0.034b 8.48±0.039a 8.41±0.048b 8.21±0.052c
Water content (%) 6.36±0.736c 10.20±1.319b 10.75±1.114b 16.53±1.949a
AMF infection rate (%) 83.94±4.698a 35.61±4.525b 42.63±12.401b 77.40±4.565a
Above-ground biomass (kg) 76.84±5.396b 60.11±20.442b 102.73±21.453a 111.63±23.854a
Root biomass (kg) 39.03±2.488b 31.11±9.675b 63.76±11.670a 52.95±9.772a
Total biomass (kg) 115.87±7.884b 91.22±30.116b 166.49±33.122a 164.58±33.626a
Table 2 Soil property and R. pseudoacacia biomass of the study sites
Fig. 2 Distribution (a) and stability (b) of soil aggregates at the study sites. Different lowercase letters indicate the significant differences among the study sites for each parameter at P<0.05 level. Different uppercase letters indicate significant difference among different sized aggregates at P<0.05 level. SM, Shenmu City; SD, Suide County; AS, Ansai District; CH, Chunhua County; MWD, mean weight diameter; GMD, geometric mean diameter; macro-aggregates, >0.250 mm; micro-aggregates, 0.250-0.053 mm; fine materials, <0.053 mm.
Fig. 3 Distribution of easily extractable glomalin-related soil protein (EE-GRSP, a), total extractable glomalin-related soil protein (T-GRSP, b) and soil organic carbon (SOC, c) in aggregates. Different lowercase letters indicate significant differences among the study sites for each parameter at P<0.05 level. Different uppercase letters indicate significant differences among different sized aggregates at P<0.05 level. SM, Shenmu City; SD, Suide County; AS, Ansai District; CH, Chunhua County; macro-aggregates, >0.250 mm; micro-aggregates, 0.250-0.053 mm; fine materials, <0.053 mm.
Index Bulk soil Macro-aggregates Micro-aggregates Fine materials
EE-GRSP ND 0.574** 0.339 -0.001
T-GRSP ND 0.711** 0.587** 0.110
SOC 0.750** 0.795** 0.758** 0.115
Table 3 Bivariate correlation between mean weight diameter (MWD) and binding agents in soil aggregates
Fig. 4 Redundancy analysis (RDA) of binding agents, soil property and R. pseudoacacia growth index. N, nitrogen; P, phosphorus; SOC, soil organic carbon; AMF, arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi; EE-GRSP and T-GRSP are easily extractable and total glomalin-related soil proteins, respectively; macro-aggregates, >0.250 mm; micro-aggregates, 0.250-0.053 mm; fine materials, <0.053 mm.
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