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Journal of Arid Land  2011, Vol. 3 Issue (4): 268-277    DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2011.00268
Research Articles     
Spatial heterogeneity of soil water content in the reversion process of desertification in arid areas
QuanLin MA1,2*, Fang CHENG1, YouJun LIU1, FangLin Wang1, DeKuai ZHANG1, HuJia JIN1
1 Gansu Key Laboratory of Desertification Combating & Minqin National Studies Station for Desert Steppe Ecosystem, Gansu Desert Control Research Institute, Lanzhou 730070, China;
2 Institute of Desertification Studies, Chinese Academy of Forestry, Beijing 100091, China
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Abstract   Sandy soils in arid, rain-fed environments have low and limited water content, which is a principal factor limiting vegetation development, and a key constraint controlling the structure and functions of the ecological systems in arid areas. The spatial heterogeneity of soil water content is a major soil property, and a focus of soil science and hydrology. On the southern edge of the Tengger Desert, sample plots were selected from mobile sand dunes in desertified lands that had been enclosed for 5, 15 and 25 years, respectively. This study explored the dynamic and spatial heterogeneity of soil water content in these different layers of soil that were also in the reversion process of desertification. The results showed that the soil water content of the mobile sand dunes was highest when in the initial stages of the reversion process of desertification, while the soil water content in the 0–20 cm, 20–40 cm and 40–60 cm layers of soil was 1.769%, 3.011%, and 2.967% respectively, presenting a restoring tendency after 25 years of enclosure. There were significant differences, as a whole, in the soil water content among different restoration stages and different soil layers, respectively. Changes in soil water content, in different soil layers, at different restoration stages, exhibited exponential or spherical patterns. The spatial distribution of soil water content exhibited a mosaic patch pattern with obvious spatial heterogeneity. The ratio of the heterogeneity of spatial autocorrelation to gross spatial heterogeneity was greater than 50%. The gross spatial heterogeneity of the 0–20 cm layer of soil improved gradually, while those of the 20–40 cm and 40–60 cm layers improved initially, then weakened in the reversion process of desertification. This study revealed that restoration with sand-binding vegetation reduced soil water content, and increased its spatial heterogeneity in arid areas. However, after 25 years of vegetation-soil system restoration, the soil water content started to increase and its spatial heterogeneity started to weaken. These results will further benefit the understanding of the ecological mechanism between soil water and sand-binding vegetation.

Key wordsKumtagh Desert      formation age      evolution      ancient aeolian sand     
Received: 09 May 2011      Published: 07 December 2011

The National Natural Science Foundation of China (41061030);  the “West Light” Talent Cultivation Program;  the National Basic Research Program of China (2009CB421303) ; the National Key Technologies R&D Program of China (2006BAD26B0802 and 2007BAD46B03).

Corresponding Authors: QuanLin MA     E-mail:
Cite this article:

QuanLin MA, Fang CHENG, YouJun LIU, FangLin Wang, DeKuai ZHANG, HuJia JIN. Spatial heterogeneity of soil water content in the reversion process of desertification in arid areas. Journal of Arid Land, 2011, 3(4): 268-277.

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