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Journal of Arid Land  2022, Vol. 14 Issue (8): 925-939    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-022-0101-1
Research article     
Evaluating the soil evaporation loss rate in a gravel-sand mulching environment based on stable isotopes data
YANG Ye1,2, ZHANG Mingjun1,2,*(), ZHANG Yu1,2, WANG Shengjie1,2, WANG Jiaxin1,2
1College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
2Key Laboratory of Resource Environment and Sustainable Development of Oasis, Lanzhou 730070, China
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In order to cope with drought and water shortages, the working people in the arid areas of Northwest China have developed a drought-resistant planting method, namely, gravel-sand mulching, after long-term agricultural practices. To understand the effects of gravel-sand mulching on soil water evaporation, we selected Baifeng peach (Amygdalus persica L.) orchards in Northwest China as the experimental field in 2021. Based on continuously collected soil water stable isotopes data, we evaluated the soil evaporation loss rate in a gravel-sand mulching environment using the line-conditioned excess (lc-excess) coupled Rayleigh fractionation model and Craig-Gordon model. The results show that the average soil water content in the plots with gravel-sand mulching is 1.86% higher than that without gravel-sand mulching. The monthly variation of the soil water content is smaller in the plots with gravel-sand mulching than that without gravel-sand mulching. Moreover, the average lc-excess value in the plots without gravel-sand mulching is smaller. In addition, the soil evaporation loss rate in the plots with gravel-sand mulching is lower than that in the plots without gravel-sand mulching. The lc-excess value was negative for both the plots with and without gravel-sand mulching, and it has good correlation with relative humidity, average temperature, input water content, and soil water content. The effect of gravel-sand mulching on soil evaporation is most prominent in August. Compared with the evaporation data of similar environments in the literature, the lc-excess coupled Rayleigh fractionation model is better. Stable isotopes evidence shows that gravel-sand mulching can effectively reduce soil water evaporation, which provides a theoretical basis for agricultural water management and optimization of water-saving methods in arid areas.

Key wordssoil evaporation loss rate      gravel-sand mulching      stable isotopes      line-conditioned excess coupled Rayleigh fractionation model      Craig-Gordon model     
Received: 24 May 2022      Published: 30 August 2022
Corresponding Authors: * ZHANG Mingjun (E-mail:
Cite this article:

YANG Ye, ZHANG Mingjun, ZHANG Yu, WANG Shengjie, WANG Jiaxin. Evaluating the soil evaporation loss rate in a gravel-sand mulching environment based on stable isotopes data. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(8): 925-939.

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Fig. 1 Location of the experimental field in the Loess Plateau (a), overview of the experimental field (b), and photographs of the plots with gravel-sand mulching (c) and without gravel-sand mulching (d). DEM, digital elevation model; A, C, and E are the plots with gravel-sand mulching; B, D, and F are the plots without gravel-sand mulching.
Fig. 2 Temporal and spatial variation of the soil water content. (a, c, and e), the plots with gravel-sand mulching; (b, d, and f), the plots without gravel-sand mulching.
Factor f(18O) f(2H) f(lc-excess) RH T IW SWC Lc-excess CW
f(18O) 1.00
f(2H) 0.97** 1.00
f(lc-excess) 0.98** 0.98** 1.00
RH -0.71* -0.66* -0.76* 1.00
T 0.55* 0.50* 0.61* -0.92** 1.00
IW -0.44* -0.54* -0.54* - - 1.00
SWC -0.73** -0.70** -0.76** 0.29** -0.27** 0.75** 1.00
Lc-excess -0.56** -0.48** -0.62** 0.50** -0.48** 0.61** 0.87** 1.00
CW 0.60** 0.77** 0.72** - - - - - 1.00
Table 1 Correlation analysis between the soil evaporation loss rate and other factors
Fig. 3 Temporal and spatial changes of the stable isotopes values of soil water. (a1-f1) represent δ2H and (a2-f2) represent δ18O. (a, c, and e), the plots with gravel-sand mulching; (b, d, and f), the plots without gravel-sand mulching.
Fig. 4 Input water line, soil water evaporation line, and global meteoric water line in April (a), May (b), June (c), July (d), August (e), September (f), and October (g). The shaded areas are 95% confidence interval.
Plot Soil depth (cm) Lc-excess (‰)
Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct
A 0-10 -14.68 -1.23 -10.87 -9.97 -8.11 -2.97 -4.84
10-20 -7.43 -5.24 -2.84 -6.04 -5.13 -1.17 -3.55
20-30 -5.74 -0.37 -3.67 -3.21 -4.04 -4.47 -4.85
C 0-10 -16.34 -6.74 -7.33 -7.51 -5.54 -3.16 -4.64
10-20 -6.95 -8.15 -2.01 -3.26 -0.70 -2.95 -5.74
20-30 -4.73 -9.72 -0.87 -1.73 -1.57 -0.51 -5.27
E 0-10 -18.28 -1.74 -10.82 -9.63 -6.29 -8.26 -9.76
10-20 -9.90 -1.87 -5.16 -7.73 -4.15 -4.85 -3.39
20-30 -4.86 -3.56 -1.77 -6.94 -4.19 -3.13 -4.09
B 0-10 -17.93 -1.61 -17.50 -13.39 -13.62 -5.75 -5.53
10-20 -6.39 -9.73 -3.66 -6.67 -8.10 -4.30 -5.35
20-30 -1.24 -3.34 -1.82 -4.99 -7.45 -4.46 -6.92
D 0-10 -12.37 -8.11 -31.21 -12.51 -9.35 -6.21 -5.20
10-20 -3.03 -8.94 -12.34 -5.50 -8.21 -3.65 -4.37
20-30 -2.64 -5.94 -8.29 -3.55 -6.54 -2.33 -6.43
F 0-10 -13.67 -0.63 -26.53 -18.53 -7.83 -11.99 -10.99
10-20 -5.64 -0.01 -8.92 -9.43 -4.30 -8.20 -9.08
20-30 -4.85 -0.10 -5.63 -9.50 -5.37 -3.39 -9.58
Table 2 Line-conditioned excess (lc-excess) values of the plots with and without gravel-sand mulching at the soil depth of 0-30 cm
Fig. 5 Temporal variation of the soil evaporation loss rate (a), temperature, relative humidity, soil evaporation line slope (SSEL), and precipitation (b). f(2H), the soil evaporation loss rate calculated by δ2H using Craig-Gordon model; f(18O), the soil evaporation loss rate calculated by δ18O using Craig-Gordon model; f(lc-excess), the soil evaporation loss rate calculated by line-conditioned excess coupled Rayleigh fractionation model; the subscripts of mulching and non-mulching represent the plots with and without gravel-sand mulching, respectively. The shaded area is the soil evaporation loss rate in similar environments, and the yellow dashed line is the average soil evaporation loss rate in similar environments (Schlesinger and Jasechko, 2014).
Month Soil water source
δ18O (‰) δ2H (‰)
April 2021 -11.45 -79.86
May 2021 -12.50 -87.47
June 2021 -12.35 -85.99
July 2021 -11.79 -81.65
August 2021 -12.81 -89.20
September 2021 -12.20 -84.67
October 2021 -12.39 -85.92
Table 3 Soil water source during April-October in 2021
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