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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (2): 205-215    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-014-0048-y
Research Articles     
Topographic differentiations of biological soil crusts and hydraulic properties in fixed sand dunes, Tengger Desert
ZhiShan ZHANG1,2, YongLe CHEN1,2, BinXing XU1,2, Lei HUANG1,2, HuiJuan TAN1,2, XueJun DONG3
1 Shapotou Desert Research and Experimental Station, Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou 730000, China;
2 Key Laboratory of Stress Physiology and Ecology in Cold and Arid Regions of Gansu Province, Lanzhou 730000, China;
3 Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Uvalde, Uvalde TX 78801, USA
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Abstract  Biological soil crusts (BSCs) play an important role in surface soil hydrology. Soils dominated with moss BSCs may have higher infiltration rates than those dominated with cyanobacteria or algal BSCs. However, it is not known whether improved infiltration in moss BSCs is accompanied by an increase in soil hydraulic conductivity or water retention capacity. We investigated this question in the Tengger Desert, where a 43-year-old revegetation program has promoted the formation of two distinct types of BSCs along topographic positions, i.e. the moss-dominated BSCs on the interdune land and windward slope of the fixed sand dunes, and the algal-dominated BSCs on the crest and leeward slopes. Soil water retention capacity and hydraulic conductivity were measured using an indoor evaporation method and a field infiltration method. And the results were fitted to the van Genuchten–Mualem model. Unsaturated hydraulic conductivities under greater pressure (<–0.01 MPa) and water retention capacities in the entire pressure head range were higher for both crust types than for bare sand. However, saturated and unsaturated hydraulic conductivities in the near-saturation range (>–0.01 MPa) showed decreasing trends from bare sand to moss crusts and to algal crusts. Our data suggested that topographic differentiation of BSCs significantly affected not only soil water retention and hydraulic conductivities, but also the overall hydrology of the fixed sand dunes at a landscape scale, as seen in the reduction and spatial variability in deep soil water storage.

Key wordsvegetation and soil restoration      fencing      grazing      alkaline soil      semi arid region      grassland degradation     
Received: 04 June 2014      Published: 10 April 2015

This research was funded by the National Basic Research Pro-gram of China (2013CB429901), the National Natural Sciences Foundation of China (41471434, 31170385) and the Foundation for Excellent Youth Scholars of CAREERI, Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Corresponding Authors: ZhiShan ZHANG     E-mail:
Cite this article:

ZhiShan ZHANG, YongLe CHEN, BinXing XU, Lei HUANG, HuiJuan TAN, XueJun DONG. Topographic differentiations of biological soil crusts and hydraulic properties in fixed sand dunes, Tengger Desert. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(2): 205-215.

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