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Journal of Arid Land  2021, Vol. 13 Issue (7): 688-698    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-021-0075-4
Research article     
Response of plant physiological parameters to soil water availability during prolonged drought is affected by soil texture
HUANG Laiming1,2, ZHAO Wen1,2, SHAO Ming'an1,2,*()
1Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
2College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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Soil water deficit is increasingly threatening the sustainable vegetation restoration and ecological construction on the Loess Plateau of China due to the climate warming and human activities. To determine the response thresholds of Amygdalus pedunculata (AP) and Salix psammophila (SP) to soil water availability under different textural soils, we measured the changes in net photosynthetic rate (Pn), stomatal conductance (Gs), intercellular CO2 concentration (Ci), leaf water potential (ψw), water use efficiency (WUE) and daily transpiration rate (Td) of the two plant species during soil water content (SWC) decreased from 100% field capacity (FC) to 20% FC in the sandy and loamy soils on the Loess Plateau in the growing season from June to August in 2018. Results showed that Pn, Gs, WUE and Td of AP and SP remained relatively constant at the beginning of soil water deficit but decreased rapidly as plant available soil water content (PASWC) fell below the threshold values in both the sandy and loamy soils. The PASWC thresholds corresponding to Pn, Gs and Ci of AP in the loamy soil (0.61, 0.62 and 0.70, respectively) were lower than those in the sandy soil (0.70, 0.63 and 0.75, respectively), whereas the PASWC thresholds corresponding to Pn, Gs and Ci of SP in the loamy soil (0.63, 0.68 and 0.78, respectively) were higher than those in the sandy soil (0.58, 0.62 and 0.66, respectively). In addition, the PASWC thresholds in relation to Td and WUE of AP (0.60 and 0.58, respectively) and SP (0.62 and 0.60, respectively) in the loamy soil were higher than the corresponding PASWC thresholds of AP (0.58 and 0.52, respectively) and SP (0.55 and 0.56, respectively) in the sandy soil. Furthermore, the PASWC thresholds for the instantaneous gas exchange parameters (e.g., Pn and Gs) at the transient scale were higher than the thresholds for the parameters (e.g., Td) at the daily scale. Our study demonstrates that different plant species and/or different physiological parameters exhibit different thresholds of PASWC and that the thresholds are affected by soil texture. The result can provide guidance for the rational allocation and sustainable management of reforestation species under different soil conditions in the loess regions.

Key wordsplant available soil water content      drought stress      soil water deficit      sustainable vegetation restoration      sandy soil      loamy soil      Loess Plateau     
Received: 12 April 2021      Published: 10 July 2021
Corresponding Authors:
About author: *SHAO Ming'an (E-mail:
Cite this article:

HUANG Laiming, ZHAO Wen, SHAO Ming'an. Response of plant physiological parameters to soil water availability during prolonged drought is affected by soil texture. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(7): 688-698.

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Soil type BD
Ks at 10°C (cm/h) FC
Sandy soil 1.64 13.42 146.70 5.95 31.28 62.77 2.49 1.34 1.68
Loamy soil 1.37 8.21 273.37 13.88 50.13 35.99 3.27 1.52 1.48
Table 1 Physical-chemical properties of the sandy and loamy soils in the study area
Physiological parameter Plant species Soil type Equation of regression PASWC threshold R2
Pn AP Sandy soil Pn=0.98(1+e-6.16(PASWC-0.27)) 0.70 0.96
Loamy soil Pn=1.03(1+e-8.56(PASWC-0.25)) 0.61 0.94
SP Sandy soil Pn=1.03(1+e-5.18(PASWC-0.21)) 0.58 0.90
Loamy soil Pn=1.20(1+e-3.79(PASWC-0.41)) 0.63 0.89
Gs AP Sandy soil Gs=1.05(1+e-10.14(PASWC-0.27)) 0.63 0.96
Loamy soil Gs=1.07(1+e-5.16(PASWC-0.30)) 0.62 0.96
SP Sandy soil Gs=0.99(1+e-7.14(PASWC-0.21)) 0.62 0.92
Loamy soil Gs=1.10(1+e-5.29(PASWC-0.32)) 0.68 0.93
Ci AP Sandy soil Ci=0.62e-PASWC/0.41+0.95 0.75 0.93
Loamy soil Ci=0.37e-PASWC/0.43+0.96 0.70 0.95
SP Sandy soil Ci=1.09e-PASWC/0.18+1.02 0.66 0.91
Loamy soil Ci=0.48e-PASWC/0.28+0.99 0.78 0.89
Td AP Sandy soil Td=1.06(1+e-5.54(PASWC-0.28)) 0.58 0.91
Loamy soil Td=1.07(1+e-6.90(PASWC-0.19)) 0.60 0.90
SP Sandy soil Td=1.18(1+e-3.66(PASWC-0.38)) 0.55 0.89
Loamy soil Td=1.05(1+e-7.27(PASWC-0.27)) 0.62 0.97
WUE AP Sandy soil WUE=1.04(1+e-6.92(PASWC-0.28)) 0.52 0.97
Loamy soil WUE=1.07(1+e-10.27(PASWC-0.19)) 0.58 0.99
SP Sandy soil WUE=1.02(1+e-6.36(PASWC-0.16)) 0.56 0.95
Loamy soil WUE=1.05(1+e-6.17(PASWC-0.25)) 0.60 0.98
Table 2 Regression analysis for the variations of different physiological parameters (Pn, Gs, Ci, Td and WUE) with PASWC of Amygdalus pedunculata (AP) and Salix psammophila (SP) in the sandy and loamy soils
Fig. 1 Variations of normalized photosynthesis parameters Pn (a), Gs (b) and Ci (c) with PASWC of Amygdalus pedunculata (AP) and Salix psammophila (SP) in the sandy and loamy soils. Pn, net photosynthetic rate; Gs, stomatal conductance; Ci, intercellular CO2 concentration; PASWC, plant available soil water content.
Fig. 2 Variations of normalized WUE (a) and Ψw (b) with PASWC of AP and SP in the sandy and loamy soils. WUE, water use efficiency; Ψw, leaf water potential.
Fig. 3 Variations of normalized Td (a) and Tc (b) with PASWC of AP and SP in the sandy and loamy soils. Td, daily transpiration rate; Tc, cumulative daily transpiration rate.
Fig. 4 Relationship between soil suction and SWC in the sandy and loamy soils. SWC, soil water content.
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