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Journal of Arid Land  2024, Vol. 16 Issue (1): 14-28    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-024-0050-y
Research article     
Ecological effect of the plantation of Sabina vulgaris in the Mu Us Sandy Land, China
NAN Weige1, DONG Zhibao1, ZHOU Zhengchao1,*(), LI Qiang2, CHEN Guoxiang3
1School of Geography and Tourism, Shaanxi Normal University, Xi'an 710062, China
2Shaanxi Key Laboratory of Ecological Restoration in Shaanbei Mining Area, Yulin University, Yulin 719000, China
3College of Prataculture, Gansu Agricultural University, Lanzhou 730070, China
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Vegetation restoration through artificial plantation is an effective method to combat desertification, especially in arid and semi-arid areas. This study aimed to explore the ecological effect of the plantation of Sabina vulgaris on soil physical and chemical properties on the southeastern fringe of the Mu Us Sandy Land, China. We collected soil samples from five depth layers (0-20, 20-40, 40-60, 60-80, and 80-100 cm) in the S. vulgaris plantation plots across four plantation ages (4, 7, 10, and 16 years) in November 2019, and assessed soil physical (soil bulk density, soil porosity, and soil particle size) and chemical (soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (AN), available phosphorus (AP), available potassium (AK), cation-exchange capacity (CEC), salinity, pH, and C/N ratio) properties. The results indicated that the soil predominantly consisted of sand particles (94.27%-99.67%), with the remainder being silt and clay. As plantation age increased, silt and very fine sand contents progressively rose. After 16 years of planting, there was a marked reduction in the mean soil particle size. The initial soil fertility was low and declined from 4 to 10 years of planting before witnessing an improvement. Significant positive correlations were observed for the clay, silt, and very fine sand (mean diameter of 0.000-0.100 mm) with SOC, AK, and pH. In contrast, fine sand and medium sand (mean diameter of 0.100-0.500 mm) showed significant negative correlations with these indicators. Our findings ascertain that the plantation of S. vulgaris requires 10 years to effectively act as a windbreak and contribute to sand fixation, and needs 16 years to improve soil physical and chemical properties. Importantly, these improvements were found to be highly beneficial for vegetation restoration in arid and semi-arid areas. This research can offer valuable insights for the protection and restoration of the vegetation ecosystem in the sandy lands in China.

Key wordsSabina vulgaris      plantation age      soil physical and chemical properties      soil particle size      soil fertility      vegetation restoration      Mu Us Sandy Land     
Received: 13 July 2023      Published: 31 January 2024
Corresponding Authors: *ZHOU Zhengchao (E-mail address:
Cite this article:

NAN Weige, DONG Zhibao, ZHOU Zhengchao, LI Qiang, CHEN Guoxiang. Ecological effect of the plantation of Sabina vulgaris in the Mu Us Sandy Land, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2024, 16(1): 14-28.

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Mean particle size Sorting Skewness Kurtosis
Range (φ) Definition Range (φ) Definition Range Definition Range Definition
> 9.00 Clay <0.35 Very well sorted -1.00- -0.30 Very negative skewed <0.67 Very platykurtic
4.00-9.00 Silt sand 0.35-0.50 Well sorted -0.30- -0.10 Negative skewed 0.67-0.90 Platykurtic
3.00-4.00 Very fine sand 0.50-1.00 Moderately sorted -0.10-0.10 Nearly symmetrical 0.90-1.11 Mesokurtic
2.00-3.00 Fine sand 1.00-2.00 Poorly sorted 0.10-0.30 Positive skewed 1.11-1.50 Leptokurtic
1.00-2.00 Medium sand 2.00-4.00 Very poorly sorted 0.30-1.00 Very positive skewed 1.50-3.00 Very leptokurtic
0.00-1.00 Coarse sand >4.00 Extremely poorly sorted >3.00 Extremely leptokurtic
-1.00-0.00 Very coarse sand
Table 1 Particle size classification and the grading standard of particle size parameters
Fig. 1 Variations in soil bulk density (a) and soil porosity (b) at different soil depth layers in the 4-, 7-, 10-, and 16-year-old S. vulgaris plantations. Bars mean standard errors (n=3).
Plantation age Soil depth layer (cm) Soil particle size distribution (%)
0.002 mm)
0.050 mm)
Very fine sand (0.050-
0.100 mm)
Fine sand
0.250 mm)
Medium sand (0.250-
0.500 mm)
Coarse sand
1.000 mm)
Very coarse sand (1.000-
2.000 mm)
4-year-old 0-20 0.00±0.00 1.35±0.83 0.17±0.13 46.79±7.23 48.28±3.97 3.41±3.11 0.00±0.00
20-40 0.00±0.00 0.59±0.15 0.09±0.30 48.61±1.52 48.31±1.71 2.39±0.38 0.00±0.00
40-60 0.00±0.00 0.53±0.05 0.03±0.22 44.02±3.33 51.91±2.94 3.51±0.91 0.00±0.00
60-80 0.00±0.00 0.58±0.36 0.09±0.28 44.71±7.88 50.80±4.98 3.81±3.21 0.00±0.00
80-100 0.00±0.00 0.49±0.20 0.07±0.17 47.56±1.96 48.83±1.27 3.05±0.64 0.00±0.00
Mean 0.00±0.00 0.71±0.36bc 0.09±0.05c 46.34±1.93a 49.63±1.64b 3.23±0.54c 0.00±0.00
7-year-old 0-20 0.00±0.00 0.52±0.47 0.24±0.18 44.12±9.08 50.13±5.17 4.75±3.60 0.00±0.00
20-40 0.00±0.00 0.29±0.50 0.44±0.20 50.67±1.56 48.40±1.51 2.38±0.23 0.00±0.00
40-60 0.00±0.00 0.24±0.41 0.26±0.21 45.66±6.48 49.43±4.43 4.18±2.29 0.00±0.00
60-80 0.00±0.00 0.00±0.00 0.42±0.17 46.97±7.69 47.36±4.27 4.21±3.39 0.00±0.00
80-100 0.00±0.00 0.35±0.41 0.27±0.20 42.51±6.24 50.53±3.48 5.43±2.32 0.00±0.00
Mean 0.00±0.00 0.28±0.19c 0.34±0.10bc 45.98±3.11a 49.17±1.29b 4.19±1.13c 0.00±0.00
10-year-old 0-20 0.00±0.00 0.75±0.52 0.36±0.36 26.42±5.31 52.53±2.08 20.07±6.15 0.00±0.00
20-40 0.00±0.00 0.46±0.06 0.40±0.37 29.75±3.77 52.50±5.46 15.48±3.28 0.00±0.00
40-60 0.00±0.00 0.98±0.04 0.31±0.25 32.96±2.35 51.96±3.43 14.43±4.93 0.00±0.00
60-80 0.00±0.00 1.05±0.53 0.78±1.32 35.32±5.98 53.45±9.52 10.60±2.42 0.00±0.00
80-100 0.00±0.00 1.27±0.65 0.34±0.46 27.33±4.56 54.06±2.52 16.93±4.81 0.00±0.00
Mean 0.00±0.00 0.90±0.31b 0.44±0.19b 30.36±3.74b 52.90±0.84a 15.40±3.47b 0.00±0.00
16-year-old 0-20 0.16±0.14 6.39±1.83 3.83±0.76 23.59±4.35 45.93±1.61 19.94±5.49 0.06±0.11
20-40 0.17±0.19 5.71±2.82 3.68±1.88 23.85±5.37 46.66±3.46 19.83±6.50 0.00±0.00
40-60 0.18±0.39 5.41±6.49 4.69±4.05 19.39±5.90 45.58±6.60 24.51±10.07 0.14±0.25
60-80 0.19±0.14 5.04±1.41 4.42±0.68 22.36±1.85 46.56±2.01 21.33±1.06 0.00±0.00
80-100 0.21±0.07 5.01±0.74 4.41±0.72 22.94±1.69 46.34±0.90 20.99±1.23 0.00±0.00
Mean 0.18±0.02 5.51±0.57a 4.21±0.43a 22.43±1.79c 46.21±0.45c 21.32±0.19a 0.05±0.06
Table 2 Soil particle size distribution in different soil depth layers in the 4-, 7-, 10-, and 16-year-old S. vulgaris plantations
Fig. 2 Soil particle size distribution (a), frequency distribution curves of soil particle size in the 0-100 cm soil profile (b1) and 0-20 cm soil depth layer (b2), and cumulative probability curves of soil particle size in the 0-100 cm soil profile (c1) and 0-20 cm soil depth layer (c2) in the 4-, 7-, 10-, and 16-year-old S. vulgaris plantations. Different lowercase letters within the same particle size fraction indicate significant differences among the four plantation ages at the P<0.05 level. Bars mean standard errors.
Fig. 3 Variations in the soil particle size parameters across all soil depth layers in the 4-, 7-, 10-, and 16-year-old S. vulgaris plantations. (a), mean particle size; (b), sorting; (c), skewness; (d), kurtosis. Bars mean standard errors.
Fig. 4 Variations in the soil chemical properties across all soil depth layers in the 4-, 7-, 10-, and 16-year-old S. vulgaris plantations. (a), soil organic carbon (SOC); (b), total nitrogen (TN); (c), available nitrogen (AN); (d), available phosphorus (AP); (e), available potassium (AK); (f), salinity; (g), cation-exchange capacity (CEC); (h), pH. Bars mean standard errors.
Property 4-year-old plantation 7-year-old plantation 10-year-old plantation 16-year-old plantation
SOC (g/kg) 1.95b 0.66 33.62 1.81b 0.60 33.12 1.78b 0.46 26.00 3.80a 0.62 16.80
TN (mg/kg) 55.76a 10.17 18.24 53.36a 8.36 15.66 53.22a 12.17 22.88 54.78a 9.10 16.61
AN (mg/kg) 18.67bc 3.55 19.01 19.68ab 1.93 9.83 14.72cd 2.83 19.22 22.20a 4.01 18.93
AP (mg/kg) 1.62a 0.22 13.56 0.85bc 0.26 31.32 0.76bc 0.13 17.43 0.92b 0.53 57.96
AK (mg/kg) 26.27b 3.91 14.89 22.59b 2.46 10.91 24.96b 2.40 9.61 50.46a 11.53 22.84
Salinity (g/kg) 0.20a 0.03 13.02 0.10bc 0.03 27.63 0.13b 0.02 13.99 0.20a 0.06 29.25
CEC (cmol/kg) 12.93a 0.83 6.42 12.98a 0.61 4.74 12.79a 0.81 6.31 13.18a 0.59 4.49
pH 7.45bc 0.04 0.57 7.50ab 0.04 0.56 7.38c 0.03 0.39 7.54a 0.05 0.66
C/N ratio 35.00 33.90 33.40 69.40
Table 3 Statistical characteristics of soil chemical properties in the 0-100 cm soil profile
Clay Silt Very fine sand Fine sand Medium sand Coarse sand Very coarse sand
SOC 0.842** 0.837** 0.825** -0.664** -0.567** 0.667** 0.434
AK 0.878** 0.917** 0.845** -0.509** -0.676** 0.591** 0.357
pH 0.599** 0.476* 0.606** -0.742* -0.541* 0.732** 0.349
Salinity 0.485* 0.419 0.438 -0.020 -0.031 0.009 0.313
TN 0.027 0.068 0.064 -0.062 0.112 0.008 0.370
AN -0.286 -0.196 -0.308 0.409 -0.224 -0.406 -0.115
AP 0.239 0.309 -0.259 -0.354 -0.153 0.383 0.364
CEC 0.162 0.193 0.204 -0.180 -0.041 -0.155 0.240
Table 4 Correlation coefficients between soil chemical properties and particle size fraction
Principal component (PC) Total variance explained Proportion of the total variance explained (%) Cumulative proportion (%)
PC1 2.433 30.407 30.407
PC2 1.834 22.930 53.337
PC3 1.397 17.464 70.800
PC4 0.912 11.402 82.203
PC5 0.572 7.150 89.352
PC6 0.481 6.016 95.368
PC7 0.200 2.506 97.874
PC8 0.170 2.126 100.000
Table 5 Results of the principal component analysis (PCA) to determine the contributions of soil chemical properties to soil fertility
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