Please wait a minute...
Journal of Arid Land  2023, Vol. 15 Issue (1): 52-62    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-023-0002-y
Research article     
Effect of sand-fixing vegetation on the hydrological regulation function of sand dunes and its practical significance
Alamusa 1, SU Yuhang1,2, YIN Jiawang1,2, ZHOU Quanlai1, WANG Yongcui1,*()
1Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110016, China
2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Download: HTML     PDF(1101KB)
Export: BibTeX | EndNote (RIS)      


Soil water content is a key controlling factor for vegetation restoration in sand dunes. The deep seepage and lateral migration of water in dunes affect the recharge process of deep soil water and groundwater in sand dune ecosystems. To determine the influence of vegetation on the hydrological regulation function of sand dunes, we examined the deep seepage and lateral migration of dune water with different vegetation coverages during the growing season in the Horqin Sandy Land, China. The results showed that the deep seepage and lateral migration of water decreased with the increase in vegetation coverage on the dunes. The accumulated deep seepage water of mobile dunes (vegetation coverage<5%) and dunes with vegetation coverage of 18.03%, 27.12%, and 50.65% accounted for 56.53%, 51.82%, 18.98%, and 0.26%, respectively, of the rainfall in the same period. The accumulated lateral migration of water in these dunes accounted for 12.39%, 6.33%, 2.23%, and 7.61% of the rainfall in the same period. The direction and position of the dune slope affected the soil water deep seepage and lateral migration process. The amounts of deep seepage and lateral migration of water on the windward slope were lower than those on the leeward slope. The amounts of deep seepage and lateral migration of water showed a decreasing trend from the bottom to the middle and to the top of the dune slope. According to the above results, during the construction of sand-control projects in sandy regions, we suggest that a certain area of mobile dunes (>13.75%) should be retained as a water resource reservoir to maintain the water balance of artificial fixed dune ecosystems. These findings provide reliable evidence for the accurate assessment of water resources within the sand dune ecosystem and guide the construction of desertification control projects.

Key wordsvegetation coverage      hydrological regulation      soil water deep seepage      sand dune      water balance      desertification control     
Received: 02 September 2022      Published: 31 January 2023
Corresponding Authors: WANG Yongcui     E-mail:
Cite this article:

Alamusa , SU Yuhang, YIN Jiawang, ZHOU Quanlai, WANG Yongcui. Effect of sand-fixing vegetation on the hydrological regulation function of sand dunes and its practical significance. Journal of Arid Land, 2023, 15(1): 52-62.

URL:     OR

Fig. 1 A scene of mobile dunes supplying water to the inter-dune lowlands. (a), seepage water from mobile dunes recharging inter-dune lowlands; (b), inter-dune lowland water between mobile dunes.
Sand dune type Vegetation coverage (%) Species composition
Mobile dunes <5.00 Corispermum candelabrum Iljin., Bassia dasyphylla (Fisch. et C. A. Mey.) Kuntze, Artemisia wudanica (Liou & W. Wang.)
Semi-fixed dunes 18.03 Caragana microphylla Lam, Artemisia wudanica (Liou & W. Wang.), Setaria viridis (L) Beauv, Corispermum candelabrum Iljin.
Fixed dunes 50.65 Caragana microphylla Lam, Artemisia halodendron Bess., Leymus chinensis (Trin.) Tzvel., Polygonum divaricatum L., Bassia dasyphylla (Fisch. et C. A. Mey.) Kuntze, Setaria viridis (L) Beauv
Table 1 Basic information of the study sites
Fig. 2 Schematic diagram of the installation of devices for monitoring deep seepage and lateral migration of soil water. (a), devices for monitoring the deep seepage and lateral migration of soil water; (b), installation location of monitoring devices in sand dunes; (c), installation position of devices at the monitoring site.
Fig. 3 Precipitation during the observation period in the study area
Sand dune type Vegetation coverage (%) Slope degree (°) Deep seepage recharge
Lateral recharge
Deep seepage (mm) Percentage
Lateral migration
Fixed dunes 50.65 15 0.69 0.26 5.82 2.23 2.49
Semi-fixed dunes 27.12 18 49.55 18.98 16.53 6.33 25.31
18.03 18 133.88 51.28 19.87 7.61 58.89
Mobile dunes <5.00 21 147.60 56.53 32.35 12.39 68.92
Table 2 Numerical comparison of deep seepage recharge and lateral recharge in dunes
Fig. 4 Temporal dynamics of total seepage and lateral water in sand dunes and rainfall from May to October
Sand dune type Seepage type Correlation index
Fixed dunes
Lateral migration 0.27
Deep seepage 0.39
Semi-fixed dunes
Lateral migration 0.27
Deep seepage 0.53
Semi-fixed dunes
Lateral migration 0.37
Deep seepage 0.82*
Mobile dunes (<5%) Lateral migration 0.64
Deep seepage 0.94**
Table 3 Correlation analysis between rainfall and seepage water in sand dunes
Fig. 5 Cumulative deep seepage and lateral migration of water on different slope directions (a) and positions of the dunes (b). F-1, fixed dunes with 50.65% vegetation coverage; F-2, semi-fixed dunes with 27.12% vegetation coverage; F-3, semi-fixed dunes with 18.03% vegetation coverage; M, mobile sand dunes.
[1]   Alamusa , Jiang D M, Pei T F. 2004. Soil moisture infiltration dynamics in plantation of Caragana microphylla in Horqin Sandy Land. Chinese Journal of Ecology, 23(1): 56-59. (in Chinese)
[2]   Alamusa , Pei T F, Jiang D M. 2005. A study on soil moisture content and plantation fitness for artificial sand-fixation forest in Horqin Sandy Land. Advance in Water Science, 16(3): 426-431. (in Chinese)
[3]   Allison G B, Cook P G, Barnett S R. 1990. Land clearance and river salinisation in the western Murray basin, Australia. Journal of Hydrology, 119(1-4): 1-20.
doi: 10.1016/0022-1694(90)90030-2
[4]   Cook P G, Kilty S. 1992. A helicopter-borne electromagnetic survey to delineate groundwater recharge rates. Water Resources Research, 28(11): 2953-2961.
doi: 10.1029/92WR01560
[5]   Dai Y, Zheng X J, Tang L S, et al. 2015. Stable oxygen isotopes reveal distinct water use patterns of two Haloxylon species in the Gurbantonggut Desert. Plant and Soil, 389(1-2): 73-87.
doi: 10.1007/s11104-014-2342-z
[6]   Duan L X, Huang M B. 2016. Review on the methods to determine deep percolation in arid and semi-arid areas. Science of Soil and Water Conservation, 14(2): 155-162. (in Chinese)
[7]   Feng W, Yang W B, Tang J N, et al. 2015. Deep soil water infiltration and its dynamic characteristics in Chinese deserts. Journal of Desert Research, 35(5): 1362-1370. (in Chinese)
[8]   Guo Z R, Han S P, Jing E C. 2005. Recharge and loss of groundwater during freezing-thawing period in inland basin, northwestern China. Advance in Water Science, 16(3): 321-325. (in Chinese)
[9]   Hua S U, LI Y G, Su B Y. 2012. Effects of groundwater decline on photosynthetic characteristics and stress tolerance of Ulmus pumila in Hunshandake Sandy Land, China. Chinese Journal of Plant Ecology, 36(3): 177-186. (in Chinese)
doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2012.00177
[10]   Keese K E, Scanlon B R, Reedy R C. 2005. Assessing controls on diffuse groundwater recharge using unsaturated flow modeling. Water Resources Research, 41(6): 1-12.
[11]   Li W, Feng W, Yang W B, et al. 2015. Relationship between rainfall and deep layer infiltration of mobile dunes in the Mu Us Sandy Land, China. Advance in Water Science, 26(6): 779-786. (in Chinese)
[12]   Li X R, Ma F Y, Long L Q, et al. 2001. Soil water dynamics under sand-fixing vegetation in Shapotou area. Journal of Desert Research, 21(3): 217-222. (in Chinese)
[13]   Li X R, Kong D S, Tan H, et al. 2007. Changes in soil and vegetation following stabilization of dunes in the southeastern fringe of the Tengger Desert, China. Plant and Soil, 300: 221-231.
doi: 10.1007/s11104-007-9407-1
[14]   Li X R, Zhang Z S, Wang X P, et al. 2009. The eco-hydrology of the soil vegetation system restoration in arid zones: A review. Journal of Desert Research, 29(5): 845-852. (in Chinese)
[15]   Li X R, Zhang Z S, Huang L, et al. 2013. Review of the ecohydrological processes and feedback mechanisms controlling sand-binding vegetation systems in sandy desert regions of China. Chinese Science Bulletin, 58(13): 397-410.
[16]   Liu H, Lei T W, Zhao J, et al. 2011. Effects of rainfall intensity and antecedent soil water content on soil infiltrability under rainfall conditions using the run off-on-out method. Journal of Hydrology, 396(1-2): 24-32.
doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2010.10.028
[17]   Liu X P, Zhang T H, Zhao H L, et al. 2006. Infiltration and redistribution process of rainfall in desert mobile sand dune. Journal of Hydraulic Engineering, 37(2): 166-171. (in Chinese)
[18]   Liu X P, Zhao H L, He Y H, et al. 2009. Water balance of mobile sandy land during the growing season. Journal of Desert Research, 29(4): 663-667. (in Chinese)
[19]   Song L N, Zhu J J, Li M C, et al. 2020. Comparison of water-use patterns for non-native and native woody species in a semiarid sandy region of Northeast China based on stable isotopes. Environmental and Experimental Botany, 174: 103923, doi: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2019.103923.
doi: 10.1016/j.envexpbot.2019.103923
[20]   Wang T, Zhu B, Luo Z X, et al. 2008. Runoff characteristic of slope cropland in the hilly area of purple soil. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 22(6): 30-34. (in Chinese)
[21]   Wang X P, Cui Y, Pan Y X, et al. 2008. Effects of rainfall characteristics on infiltration and redistribution patterns in revegetation-stabilized desert ecosystems. Journal of Hydrology, 358(1-2): 134-143.
doi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2008.06.002
[22]   Wu H W, Li X Y, Jiang Z Y, et al. 2016. Contrasting water use pattern of introduced and native plants in an alpine desert ecosystem, Northeast Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. Science of the Total Environment, 542: 182-191.
doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2015.10.121
[23]   Yang W B, Tang J N, Liang H R, et al. 2014. Deep soil water infiltration and its dynamic variation in the shifting sandy land of typical deserts in China. Science China Earth Sciences, 57(8): 1816-1824. (in Chinese)
doi: 10.1007/s11430-014-4882-8
[24]   Yao D M, Feng J C, Feng W, et al. 2017. Water seepage and its dynamic characteristics in deep layer of typical mobile dune in Mu Us Sand Land. Journal of Desert Research, 37(2): 222-227. (in Chinese)
[25]   Yin J W, Alamusa , Su Y H, et al. 2022. Comparative study on soil infiltration characteristics of different land use types in Horqin Sandy Land. Bulletin of Soil and Water Conservation, 42(4): 90-98. (in Chinese)
[26]   Yuan P F, Wang G D, Wang W W, et al. 2008. Characteristics of rainwater infiltration and evaporation in Mu Us Sand Land. Science of Soil and Water Conservation, 6(4): 23-27. (in Chinese)
[27]   Zhou H F, Zhou B J, Tang Y, et al. 2009. Experimental study on infiltration characteristics of seasonal frozen soils in Gurbantunggut Desert. Arid Land Geography, 32(4): 532-536. (in Chinese)
[1] MENG Nan, WANG Nai'ang, ZHAO Liqiang, NIU Zhenmin, SUN Jiaqi. Wind regimes and associated sand dune types in the hinterland of the Badain Jaran Desert, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(5): 473-489.
[2] YU Xiang, LEI Jiaqiang, GAO Xin. An over review of desertification in Xinjiang, Northwest China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2022, 14(11): 1181-1195.
[3] ZHANG Yongkun, HUANG Mingbin. Spatial variability and temporal stability of actual evapotranspiration on a hillslope of the Chinese Loess Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2021, 13(2): 189-204.
[4] YANG Junhuai, XIA Dunsheng, WANG Shuyuan, TIAN Weidong, MA Xingyue, CHEN Zixuan, GAO Fuyuan, LING Zhiyong, DONG Zhibao. Near-surface wind environment in the Yarlung Zangbo River basin, southern Tibetan Plateau[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2020, 12(6): 917-936.
[5] CHEN Yanfeng, CAO Qiumei, LI Dexin, LIU Huiliang, ZHANG Daoyuan. Effects of temperature and light on seed germination of ephemeral plants in the Gurbantunggut Desert, China: implications for vegetation restoration[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(6): 916-927.
[6] Hai ZHU, Shunjun HU, Jingsong YANG, KARAMAGE Fidele, Hao LI, Sihua FU. Spatio-temporal variation of soil moisture in a fixed dune at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert in Xinjiang, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(5): 685-700.
[7] Qingsheng LIU, Gaohuan LIU, Chong HUANG. Monitoring desertification processes in Mongolian Plateau using MODIS tasseled cap transformation and TGSI time series[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2018, 10(1): 12-26.
[8] Yanlong HAN, Yong GAO, Zhongju MENG, Xiaohong DANG, Xu JIA, Yanlong DING, Peng LI. Effects of wind guide plates on wind velocity acceleration and dune leveling: a case study in Ulan Buh Desert, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(5): 743-752.
[9] Fengqin JIA, TIYIP Tashpolat, Nan WU, Changyan TIAN, Yuanming ZHANG. Characteristics of soil seed banks at different geomorphic positions within the longitudinal sand dunes of the Gurbantunggut Desert, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(3): 355-367.
[10] Yang ZHANG, Yuan WANG, Xiaosi ZHOU, Bin YANG. Evolution of crescent-shaped sand dune under the influence of injected sand flux: scaling law and wind tunnel experiment[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2017, 9(2): 270-277.
[11] ZHOU Lei, LYU Aifeng. Investigating natural drivers of vegetation coverage variation using MODIS imagery in Qinghai, China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2016, 8(1): 109-124.
[12] FeiLong HU, WenKai SHOU, Bo LIU, ZhiMin LIU, Carlos A BUSSO. Species composition and diversity, and carbon stock in a dune ecosystem in the Horqin Sandy Land of northern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(1): 82-93.
[13] Jia QIN, YongJian DING, JinKui WU, MingJie GAO, ShuHua YI, ChuanCheng ZHAO, BaiSheng YE, Man LI, ShengXia WANG. Understanding the impact of mountain landscapes on water balance in the upper Heihe River watershed in northwestern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(3): 366-383.
[14] Min XU, BaiSheng YE, QiuDong ZHAO, ShiQing ZHANG, Jiang WANG. Estimation of water balance in the source region of the Yellow River based on GRACE satellite data[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2013, 5(3): 384-395.
[15] QuanLai ZHOU, DeMing JIANG, ZhiMin LIU, Alamusa, XueHua LI, YongMing LUO, HongMei WANG. The return and loss of litter phosphorus in different types of sand dunes in Horqin Sandy Land, northeastern China[J]. Journal of Arid Land, 2012, 4(4): 431-440.