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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (4): 462-474    DOI:
Research Articles     
Optimal root system strategies for desert phreatophytic seedlings in the search for groundwater
LI Changjun1,2,3,4,5, ZENG Fanjiang1,3,4*, ZHANG Bo1,3,4,5, LIU Bo1,3,4, GUO Zichun1,3,4,5, GAO Huanhuan1,3,4,5, TIYIP Tashpolat2
1 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
2 College of Resources and Environment Science, Xinjiang University, Urumqi 830046, China;
3 Cele National Station of Observation and Research for Desert Grassland Ecosystem, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
4 Key Laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresource in Arid Land, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
5 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
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Abstract  Desert phreatophytes are greatly dependent on groundwater, but how their root systems adapt to different groundwater depths is poorly understood. In the present study, shoot and root growths of Alhagi sparsifolia Shap. seedlings were studied across a gradient of groundwater depths. Leaves, stems and roots of different orders were measured after 120 days of different groundwater treatments. Results indicated that the depth of soil wetting front and the vertical distribution of soil water contents were highly controlled by groundwater depths. The shoot growth and biomass of A. sparsifolia decreased, but the root growth and rooting depth increased under deeper groundwater conditions. The higher ratios of root biomass, root/shoot and root length/leaf area under deeper groundwater conditions implied that seedlings of A. sparsifolia economized carbon cost on their shoot growths. The roots of A. sparsifolia distributed evenly around the soil wetting fronts under deeper groundwater conditions. Root diameters and root lengths of all orders were correlated with soil water availabilities both within and among treatments. Seedlings of A. sparsifolia produced finer first- and second-order roots but larger third- and fourth-order roots in dry soils. The results demonstrated that the root systems of desert phreatophytes can be optimized to acquire groundwater resources and maximize seedling growth by balancing the costs of carbon gain.

Key wordsmega-dune      water cycle      observation      wet sand layer      Badain Jaran Desert     
Received: 17 September 2014      Published: 10 August 2015

This study is supported by the Joint Funds of National Natural Science Foundation of China (U1203201) and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41371516, 31100144).

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Cite this article:

LI Changjun, ZENG Fanjiang, ZHANG Bo, LIU Bo, GUO Zichun, GAO Huanhuan, TIYIP Ta. Optimal root system strategies for desert phreatophytic seedlings in the search for groundwater. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(4): 462-474.

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