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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (1): 63-72    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-014-0073-x
Research Articles     
The relationship between soil, climate and forest development in the mid-mountain zone of the Sangong River watershed in the northern Tianshan Mountains, China
Li DAI1,2, YiXing FENG2, GePing LUO2*, YanZhong LI2, WenQiang XU2
1 School of Geographic and Environmental Sciences, Guizhou Normal University, Guiyang 550001, China;
2 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
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Abstract  The mountainous forests in arid regions, being sensitive to climate change, are one of the key research topics related to the mechanism of interaction between climate and the terrestrial ecosystem. In this study, the spatial distribution of a mid-mountain forest and its environmental factors were investigated by using a combination of remote sensing technology, field survey, climate indices and soil nutrient analysis in the Sangong River watershed of the northern Tianshan Mountains. The forest (Picea schrenkiana) was distributed between 1,510 and 2,720 m asl. Tree height and diameter at breast height (DBH) exhibited a bi-modal pattern with increasing elevation, and rested at 2,450 and 2,250 m asl, respectively. The two maxima of DBH appeared at 2,000 and 2,550 m asl, and the taller trees were observed at 2,100 and 2,600 m asl. For the annual mean temperature, the difference was approximately 5.8°C between the lowest and the highest limits of the forest, and the average decreasing rates per hundred meters were 0.49°C and 0.55°C with increasing altitude between 1,500 and 2,000 m asl and above 2,000 m asl, respectively. The annual precipitation in the forest zone first increased and then decreased with the increase of altitude, and the maximum value was at 2,000 m asl. For per hundred meters, the annual precipitation increased with the rate of 31 mm between 1,500 and 2,000 m asl and decreased by 7.8 mm above 2,000 m asl. The SOM, TN and TP were high between 2,000 and 2,700 m asl and low at the lower and upper forest limits. The minimum CaCO3 concentration, pH value and EC coincided with the maximum precipitation belt at 2,000 m asl. The SOM, TN and TP were high in the topsoil (0–10 cm) and differed significantly from the values observed in the deep soil layers (>10 cm). The soil nutrients exhibited spatial heterogeneity and higher aggregation in the topsoil. In conclusion, soil and climate are closely related to each other, working synergistically to determine the development and spatial distribution of the mid-mountain forest in the study area. The order of the importance of environmental factors to forest development in this study is as follows: soil nutrients>precipitation>elevation>temperature.

Received: 19 November 2013      Published: 10 February 2015

This study was funded by the National Natural Science Foun-dation of China (41271126), the Ph.D. Research Foundation of Guizhou Normal University and the Science and Technology Foundation of Guizhou Province (J[2014]2126).

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Cite this article:

Li DAI, YiXing FENG, GePing LUO, YanZhong LI2, WenQiang XU. The relationship between soil, climate and forest development in the mid-mountain zone of the Sangong River watershed in the northern Tianshan Mountains, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 63-72.

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