Please wait a minute...
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
Download: HTML     PDF(592KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


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: SHAO Ming'an     E-mail:
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.

URL:     OR

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.
[1]   Allen C D, Macalady A K, Chenchouni H, et al. 2010. A global overview of drought and heat-induced tree mortality reveals emerging climate change risks for forests. Forest Ecology and Management, 259(4):660-684.
doi: 10.1016/j.foreco.2009.09.001
[2]   Belko N, Zaman-Allah M, Cisse N, et al. 2012. Lower soil moisture threshold for transpiration decline under water deficit correlates with lower canopy conductance and higher transpiration efficiency in drought-tolerant cowpea. Functional Plant Biology, 39(4):306-322.
doi: 10.1071/FP11282
[3]   Bielorai H. 1973. Prediction of irrigation needs. In: Yaron B, Danfors E, Vaadia Y. Arid Zone Irrigation. Berlin: Springer, 359-369.
[4]   Blackman C J, Brodribb T J, Jordan G J. 2009. Leaf hydraulics and drought stress: response, recovery and survivorship in four woody temperate plant species. Plant, Cell & Environment, 32(11):1584-1595.
[5]   Bremner J M, Tabatabai M A. 2008. Use of an ammonia electrode for determination of ammonium in Kjeldahl analysis of soils. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis, 3(2):159-165.
doi: 10.1080/00103627209366361
[6]   Breshears D D, Cobb N S, Rich P M, et al. 2005. Regional vegetation die-off in response to global-change-type drought. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 102(42):15144-15148.
[7]   Bresson J, Vasseur F, Dauzat M, et al. 2015. Quantifying spatial heterogeneity of chlorophyll fluorescence during plant growth and in response to water stress. Plant Methods, 11:23, doi: 10.1186/s13007-015-0067-5.
doi: 10.1186/s13007-015-0067-5
[8]   Casadebaig P, Debaeke P, Lecoeur J. 2008. Thresholds for leaf expansion and transpiration response to soil water deficit in a range of sunflower genotypes. European Journal of Agronomy, 28(4):646-654.
doi: 10.1016/j.eja.2008.02.001
[9]   Dai A. 2011. Drought under global warming: A review. WIREs Climate Change, 2(1):45-46.
doi: 10.1002/wcc.v2.1
[10]   Gallé A, Haldimann P, Feller U. 2007. Photosynthetic performance and water relations in young pubescent oak (Quercus pubescens) trees during drought stress and recovery. New Phytologist, 174(4):799-810.
doi: 10.1111/nph.2007.174.issue-4
[11]   Grossman R B, Reinsch T G. 2002. Bulk density and linear extensibility. In: Dane J H, Clarke Topp G. Methods of Soil Analysis: Part 4 Physical Methods. Madison: Soil Science Society of America, 201-228.
[12]   Guo Q R, Li Y S. 1994. Soil moisture availability to plant in the southern the Loess Plateau. Acta Pedologica Sinica, 31(3):236-243. (in Chinese)
[13]   Huang L M, Shao M A. 2019. Advances and perspectives on soil water research in China's Loess Plateau. Earth-Science Reviews, 199:102962, doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.102962.
doi: 10.1016/j.earscirev.2019.102962
[14]   Huxman T E, Smith M D, Fay P A, et al. 2004. Convergence across biomes to a common rain-use efficiency. Nature, 429(6992):651-654.
doi: 10.1038/nature02561
[15]   Jia X X, Shao M A, Zhang C C, et al. 2015. Regional temporal persistence of dried soil layer along south-north transect of the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Hydrology, 528:152-160.
doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2015.06.025
[16]   Jury W A, Horton R. 2004. Soil Physics (6th ed.). New Jersey: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 78-83.
[17]   Lagergren F, Lindroth A. 2002. Transpiration response to soil moisture in pine and spruce trees in Sweden. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 112(2):67-85.
doi: 10.1016/S0168-1923(02)00060-6
[18]   Mao N, Huang L M, Shao M A. 2018. Vertical distribution of soil organic and inorganic carbon under different vegetation covers in two toposequences of Liudaogou watershed on the Loess Plateau, China. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 73(4):479-491.
doi: 10.2489/jswc.73.4.479
[19]   Marengo J A, Espinoza J C. 2016. Extreme seasonal droughts and floods in Amazonia: causes, trends and impacts. International Journal of Climatology, 36(3):1033-1050.
doi: 10.1002/joc.4420
[20]   Medrano H, Escalona J M, Bota J, et al. 2002. Regulation of photosynthesis of C3 plants in response to progressive drought: stomatal conductance as a reference parameter. Annals of Botany, 89:895-905.
doi: 10.1093/aob/mcf079
[21]   Murphy J, Riley J P. 1962. A modified single solution method for the determination of phosphate in natural waters. Analytica Chimica Acta, 27:31-36.
doi: 10.1016/S0003-2670(00)88444-5
[22]   Nelson D W, Sommers L E. 1996. Total carbon, organic carbon, and organic matter. In: Sparks D L, Page A L, Helmke P A, et al. Methods of Soil Analysis Part 3: Chemical Methods. Madison: Soil Science Society of America, 961-1010.
[23]   Osakabe Y, Osakabe K, Shinozaki K, et al. 2014. Response of plants to water stress. Frontiers of Plant Science, 5:86, doi: 10.3389/fpls.2014.00086.
[24]   Pei Y W, Huang L M, Shao M A, et al. 2020. Responses of Amygdalus pedunculata Pall. in sandy and loamy soils to water stress. Journal of Arid Land, 12(5):791-805.
doi: 10.1007/s40333-020-0016-7
[25]   Pei Y W, Huang L M, Li D F, et al. 2021. Characteristics and controls of solute transport under different conditions of soil texture and vegetation type in the water-wind erosion crisscross region of China's Loess Plateau. Chemosphere, 273:129651, doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.129651.
doi: 10.1016/j.chemosphere.2021.129651
[26]   Ray J D, Sinclair T R. 1997. Stomatal closure of maize hybrids in response to drying soil. Crop Science, 37(3):803-807.
doi: 10.2135/cropsci1997.0011183X003700030018x
[27]   Sadras V O, Milroy S P. 1996. Soil-water thresholds for the responses of leaf expansion and gas exchange: a review. Field Crops Research, 47(2-3):253-266.
doi: 10.1016/0378-4290(96)00014-7
[28]   Saliendra N Z, Meinzer F C. 1989. Relationship between root/soil hydraulic properties and stomatal behaviour in sugarcane. Australian Journal of Plant Physiology, 16(3):241-250.
[29]   Sinclair T R, Holbrook N M, Zwieniecki M A. 2005. Daily transpiration rates of woody species on drying soil. Tree Physiology, 25(11):1469-1472.
pmid: 16105814
[30]   Soltani A, Khooie F R, Ghassemi-Golezani K, et al. 2000. Thresholds for chickpea leaf expansion and transpiration response to soil water deficit. Field Crops Research, 68(3):205-210.
doi: 10.1016/S0378-4290(00)00122-2
[31]   Su Y Z, Wang J Q, Yang R, et al. 2015. Soil texture controls vegetation biomass and organic carbon storage in arid desert grassland in the middle of Hexi Corridor region in northwest China. Soil Research, 53(4):366-376.
doi: 10.1071/SR14207
[32]   Ullah H, Santiago-Arenas R, Ferdous Z, et al. 2019. Improving water use efficiency, nitrogen use efficiency, and radiation use efficiency in field crops under drought stress: a review. Advances in Agronomy, 156:109-157.
[33]   Viciedo D O, Prado R D M, Martinez C A, et al. 2021. Changes in soil water availability and air-temperature impact biomass allocation and C:N:P stoichiometry in different organs of Stylosanthes capitata Vogel. Journal of Environmental Management, 278:111540, doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111540.
doi: 10.1016/j.jenvman.2020.111540
[34]   Wang Y Q, Shao M A, Zhu Y J, et al. 2018. A new index to quantify dried soil layers in water-limited ecosystems: a case study on the Chinese Loess Plateau. Geoderma, 322:1-11.
doi: 10.1016/j.geoderma.2018.02.007
[35]   Wen X, Deng X Z. 2020. Current soil erosion assessment in the Loess Plateau of China: a mini-review. Journal of Cleaner Production, 276:123091, doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.123091.
doi: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2020.123091
[36]   Wu Y Z, Huang M B. 2010. Effect of soil texture on soil water availability for different maize physiological indices. Transactions of the Chinese Society of Agricultural Engineering, 26(2):82-88. (in Chinese)
[37]   Yan W M, Zhong Y Q W, Shangguan Z P. 2016. A meta-analysis of leaf gas exchange and water status responses to drought. Scientific Reports, 6:20917, doi: 10.1038/srep20917.
doi: 10.1038/srep20917
[38]   Yan W M, Zhong Y Q W, Shangguan Z P. 2017a. Rapid response of the carbon balance strategy in Robinia pseudoacacia, and Amorpha fruticosa to recurrent drought. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 138:46-56.
doi: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2017.03.009
[39]   Yan W M, Zhong Y Q W, Shangguan Z P. 2017b. Responses of different physiological parameter thresholds to soil water availability in four plant species during prolonged drought. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 247:311-319.
doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2017.08.017
[40]   Zhang Z D, Huang M B, Yang Y N, et al. 2020. Evaluating drought-induced mortality risk for Robinia pseudoacacia plantations along the precipitation gradient on the Chinese Loess Plateau. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 284:107897, doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.107897.
doi: 10.1016/j.agrformet.2019.107897
[1] CHEN Shumin, JIN Zhao, ZHANG Jing, YANG Siqi. Soil quality assessment in different dammed-valley farmlands in the hilly-gully mountain areas of the northern Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(8): 777-789.
[2] WANG Chunyuan, YU Minghan, DING Guodong, GAO Guanglei, ZHANG Linlin, HE Yingying, LIU Wei. Size- and leaf age-dependent effects on the photosynthetic and physiological responses of Artemisia ordosica to drought stress[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(7): 744-758.
[3] PEI Yanwu, HUANG Laiming, SHAO Ming'an, ZHANG Yinglong. Responses of Amygdalus pedunculata Pall. in the sandy and loamy soils to water stress[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(5): 791-805.
[4] GONG Yidan, XING Xuguang, WANG Weihua. Factors determining soil water heterogeneity on the Chinese Loess Plateau as based on an empirical mode decomposition method[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(3): 462-472.
[5] QIAO Xianguo, GUO Ke, LI Guoqing, ZHAO Liqing, LI Frank Yonghong, GAO Chenguang. Assessing the collapse risk of Stipa bungeana grassland in China based on its distribution changes[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(2): 303-317.
[6] Shenghai PU, Guangyong LI, Guangmu TANG, Yunshu ZHANG, Wanli XU, Pan LI, Guangping FENG, Feng DING. Effects of biochar on water movement characteristics in sandy soil under drip irrigation[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(5): 740-753.
[7] MAMUT Jannathan, Dunyan TAN, C BASKIN Carol, M BASKIN Jerry. Effects of water stress and NaCl stress on different life cycle stages of the cold desert annual Lachnoloma lehmannii in China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(5): 774-784.
[8] DZIKITI Sebinasi, Z JOVANOVIC Nebo, DH BUGAN Richard, RAMOELO Abel, P MAJOZI Nobuhle, NICKLESS Alecia, A CHO Moses, C LE MAITRE David, NTSHIDI Zanele, H PIENAAR Harrison. Comparison of two remote sensing models for estimating evapotranspiration: algorithm evaluation and application in seasonally arid ecosystems in South Africa[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 495-512.
[9] Jun WU, STEPHEN Yeboah, Liqun CAI, Renzhi ZHANG, Peng QI, Zhuzhu LUO, Lingling LI, Junhong XIE, Bo DONG. Effects of different tillage and straw retention practices on soil aggregates and carbon and nitrogen sequestration in soils of the northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(4): 567-578.
[10] Hongfen ZHU, Yi CAO, Yaodong JING, Geng LIU, Rutian BI, Wude YANG. Multi-scale spatial relationships between soil total nitrogen and influencing factors in a basin landscape based on multivariate empirical mode decomposition[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(3): 385-399.
[11] Shanshan JIN, Youke WANG, Xing WANG, Yonghong BAI, Leigang SHI. Effect of pruning intensity on soil moisture and water use efficiency in jujube (Ziziphus jujube Mill.) plantations in the hilly Loess Plateau Region, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(3): 446-460.
[12] Huimin YANG, Xueyong ZOU, Jing'ai WANG, Peijun SHI. An experimental study on the influences of water erosion on wind erosion in arid and semi-arid regions[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(2): 208-216.
[13] Chunlei ZHAO, Ming'an SHAO, Xiaoxu JIA, Laiming HUANG, Yuanjun ZHU. Spatial distribution of water-activesoil layer along the south-north transect in the Loess Plateau of China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(2): 228-240.
[14] Guohua HE, Yong ZHAO, Jianhua WANG, Qingming WANG, Yongnan ZHU. Impact of large-scale vegetation restoration project on summer land surface temperature on the Loess Plateau, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(6): 892-904.
[15] Linhua WANG, Yafeng WANG, SASKIA Keesstra, ARTEMI Cerdà, Bo MA, Faqi WU. Effect of soil management on soil erosion on sloping farmland during crop growth stages under a large-scale rainfall simulation experiment[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(6): 921-931.