Drought is one of the most significant environmental disasters, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. Drought indices as a tool for management practices seeking to deal with the drought phenomenon are widely used around the world. One of these indicators is the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI), which is used in many parts of the world to assess the drought situation and continuation. In this study, the drought state of Fars Province in Iran was evaluated by using the PDSI over 1995-2014 according to meteorological data from six weather stations in the province. A statistical downscaling model (SDSM) was used to apply the output results of the general circulation model in Fars Province. To implement data processing and prediction of climate data, a statistical period 1995-2014 was considered as the monitoring period, and a statistical period 2019-2048 was for the prediction period. The results revealed that there is a good agreement between the simulated precipitation (R2>0.63; R2, determination coefficient; MAE<0.52; MAE, mean absolute error; RMSE<0.56; RMSE, Root Mean Squared Error) and temperature (R2>0.95, MAE<1.74, and RMSE<1.78) with the observed data from the stations. The results of the drought monitoring model presented that dry periods would increase over the next three decades as compared to the historical data. The studies showed the highest drought in the meteorological stations Abadeh and Lar during the prediction period under two future scenarios representative concentration pathways (RCP4.5 and RCP8.5). According to the results of the validation periods and efficiency criteria, we suggest that the SDSM is a proper tool for predicting drought in arid and semi-arid regions.
Glaciers are a critical freshwater resource of river recharge in arid areas around the world. In recent decades, glaciers have shown evidence of retreat due to climate change, and the accelerated ablation of glaciers and associated impacts on water resources have received widespread attention. Glacier variations result from climate change, so they can serve as an indicator of climate change. Considering the climatic differences in different elevation ranges, it is worthwhile to explore whether different responses exist between glacier area and air temperature in each elevation zone. In this study, we selected a typical arid inland river basin (Sugan Lake Basin) in the western Qilian Mountains of Northwest China to analyze the glacier variations and their response to climate change. The glacier area data from 1989 to 2016 were delineated using Landsat Thematic Mapper (TM), Enhanced TM+ (ETM+) and Operational Land Imager (OLI) images. We compared the relationships between glacier area and air temperature at seven meteorological stations in the glacier-covered areas and in the Sugan Lake Basin, and further analyzed the relationship between glacier area and mean air temperature of the glacier surfaces in July-August in the elevation range of 4700-5500 m a.s.l. by the linear regression method and correlation analysis. In addition, based on the linear regression relationship established between glacier area and air temperature in each elevation zone, we predicted glacier areas under future climate scenarios during the periods of 2046-2065 and 2081-2100. The results indicate that the glaciers experienced a remarkable shrinkage from 1989 to 2016 with a shrinkage rate of -1.61 km2/a (-0.5%/a), and the rising temperature is the decisive factor dominating glacial retreat; there is a significant negative linear correlation between glacier area and mean air temperature of the glacier surfaces in July-August in each elevation zone from 1989 to 2016. The variations in glaciers are far less sensitive to changes in precipitation than to changes in air temperature. Due to the influence of climate and topographic conditions, the distribution of glacier area and the rate of glacier ablation first increased and then decreased in different elevation zones. The trend in glacier shrinkage will continue because air temperature will continue to increase in the future, and the result of glacier retreat in each elevation zone will be slightly slower than that in the entire study area. Quantitative glacier research can more accurately reflect the response of glacier variations to climate change, and the regression relationship can be used to predict the areas of glaciers under future climate scenarios. These conclusions can offer effective references for assessing glacier variations and their response to climate change in arid inland river basins in Northwest China as well as other similar regions in the world.
The vegetation ecosystem of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China, considered to be the ′′natural laboratory′′ of climate change in the world, has undergone profound changes under the stress of global change. Herein, we analyzed and discussed the spatial-temporal change patterns and the driving mechanisms of net primary productivity (NPP) in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau from 2000 to 2015 based on the gravity center and correlation coefficient models. Subsequently, we quantitatively distinguished the relative effects of climate change (such as precipitation, temperature and evapotranspiration) and human activities (such as grazing and ecological construction) on the NPP changes using scenario analysis and Miami model based on the MOD17A3 and meteorological data. The average annual NPP in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau showed a decreasing trend from the southeast to the northwest during 2000-2015. With respect to the inter-annual changes, the average annual NPP exhibited a fluctuating upward trend from 2000 to 2015, with a steep increase observed in 2005 and a high fluctuation observed from 2005 to 2015. In the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, the regions with the increase in NPP (change rate higher than 10%) were mainly concentrated in the Three-River Source Region, the northern Hengduan Mountains, the middle and lower reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River, and the eastern parts of the North Tibet Plateau, whereas the regions with the decrease in NPP (change rate lower than -10%) were mainly concentrated in the upper reaches of the Yarlung Zangbo River and the Ali Plateau. The gravity center of NPP in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau has moved southwestward during 2000-2015, indicating that the increment and growth rate of NPP in the southwestern part is greater than those of NPP in the northeastern part. Further, a significant correlation was observed between NPP and climate factors in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. The regions exhibiting a significant correlation between NPP and precipitation were mainly located in the central and eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, and the regions exhibiting a significant correlation between NPP and temperature were mainly located in the southern and eastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Furthermore, the relative effects of climate change and human activities on the NPP changes in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau exhibited significant spatial differences in three types of zones, i.e., the climate change-dominant zone, the human activity-dominant zone, and the climate change and human activity interaction zone. These research results can provide theoretical and methodological supports to reveal the driving mechanisms of the regional ecosystems to the global change in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.
Land cover in the Chinese Loess Plateau has undergone dramatic changes since the late 1980s. Revealing the trend in land cover change and eco-environmental quality response of different geomorphic units in this stage is a realistic requirement for promoting sustainable development of the Chinese Loess Plateau. Based on the data of geomorphic units and land cover in 1990, 2000, 2010 and 2018 of the Chinese Loess Plateau, we studied the trend of land cover change and eco-environmental quality response of different geomorphic units by using a significance index of land cover change, a proportion index of land cover change and an eco-environmental response model. The results indicated that from 1990 to 2018, the areas of forestland and construction land substantially increased, whereas those of cropland, grassland, wetland and unused land considerably decreased. Land cover change exhibited large geomorphic differences, and the main conversion of land cover was from cropland into other land types. Unstable trend of land cover change in the loess tablelands and sandy loess hills declined, whereas the unstable trends in the other geomorphic units enhanced. Eco-environmental quality varied among different geomorphic units. The expansion of construction land and degradation of forestland, grassland and wetland resulted in the deterioration of eco-environmental quality. The conversion of cropland and unused land into forestland and grassland, and the conversion of grassland into forestland were the main factors that drove the improvement of eco-environmental quality. The findings of this study may provide theoretical reference and support decision making for the optimization of land use structure and the improvement of eco-environmental quality on the Chinese Loess Plateau.
Tamarix taklamakanensis, a dominant species in the Taklimakan Desert of China, plays a crucial role in stabilizing sand dunes and maintaining regional ecosystem stability. This study aimed to determine the water use strategies of T. taklamakanensis in the Taklimakan Desert under a falling groundwater depth. Four typical T. taklamakanensis nabkha habitats (sandy desert of Tazhong site, saline desert-alluvial plain of Qiemo site, desert-oasis ecotone of Qira site and desert-oasis ecotone of Aral site) were selected with different climate, soil, groundwater and plant cover conditions. Stable isotope values of hydrogen and oxygen were measured for plant xylem water, soil water (soil depths within 0-500 cm), snowmelt water and groundwater in the different habitats. Four potential water sources for T. taklamakanensis, defined as shallow, middle and deep soil water, as well as groundwater, were investigated using a Bayesian isotope mixing model. It was found that groundwater in the Taklimakan Desert was not completely recharged by precipitation, but through the river runoff from snowmelt water in the nearby mountain ranges. The surface soil water content was quickly depleted by strong evaporation, groundwater depth was relatively shallow and the height of T. taklamakanensis nabkha was relatively low, thus T. taklamakanensis primarily utilized the middle (23%±1%) and deep (31%±5%) soil water and groundwater (36%±2%) within the sandy desert habitat. T. taklamakanensis mainly used the deep soil water (55%±4%) and a small amount of groundwater (25%±2%) within the saline desert-alluvial plain habitat, where the soil water content was relatively high and the groundwater depth was shallow. In contrast, within the desert-oasis ecotone in the Qira and Aral sites, T. taklamakanensis primarily utilized the deep soil water (35%±1% and 38%±2%, respectively) and may also use groundwater because the height of T. taklamakanensis nabkha was relatively high in these habitats and the soil water content was relatively low, which is associated with the reduced groundwater depth due to excessive water resource exploitation and utilization by surrounding cities. Consequently, T. taklamakanensis showed distinct water use strategies among the different habitats and primarily depended on the relatively stable water sources (deep soil water and groundwater), reflecting its adaptations to the different habitats in the arid desert environment. These findings improve our understanding on determining the water sources and water use strategies of T. taklamakanensis in the Taklimakan Desert.
Soil surface mulching and planting density regulation are widely used for effective utilization of limited rainwater resources and improvement of crop productivity in dryland farming. However, the combined effects of mulching type and planting density on maize growth and yield have been seldom studied, especially in different hydrological years. A field experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of mulching type and planting density on the soil temperature, growth, grain yield (GY), water use efficiency (WUE) and economic benefit of rainfed maize in the drylands of northern China during 2015-2017. Precipitation fluctuated over the three years. There were four mulching types (NM, flat cultivation with non-mulching; SM, flat cultivation with straw mulching; RP, plastic-mulched ridge plus bare furrow; RPFS, plastic-mulched ridge plus straw-mulched furrow) and three planting densities (LD, low planting density, 45.0×103 plants/hm2; MD, medium planting density, 67.5×103 plants/hm2; HD, high planting density, 90.0×103 plants/hm2). Results showed that soil temperature was higher with RP and lower with SM compared with NM, but no significant difference was found between RPFS and NM. More soil water was retained by soil mulching at the early growth stage, but it significantly varied at the middle and late growth stages. Maize growth was significantly improved by soil mulching. With increasing planting density, stem diameter, net photosynthetic rate and chlorophyll content tended to decline, whereas a single-peak trend in biomass yield was observed. Mulching type and planting density did not have significant effect on evapotranspiration (ET), but GY and WUE were significantly affected. There were significant interacting effects of mulching type and planting density on biomass yield, GY, ET and WUE. Compared with NM, RPFS, RP and SM increased GY by 57.5%, 50.8% and 18.9%, and increased WUE by 66.6%, 54.3% and 18.1%, respectively. At MD, GY increased by 41.4% and 25.2%, and WUE increased by 38.6% and 22.4% compared with those of at LD and HD. The highest maize GY (7023.2 kg/hm2) was observed under MD+RPFS, but the value (6699.1 kg/hm2) was insignificant under MD+RP. Similar trends were observed for WUE under MD+RP and MD+RPFS, but no significant difference was observed between these two combinations. In terms of economic benefit, net income under MD+RP was the highest with a 9.8% increase compared with that of under MD+RPFS. Therefore, we concluded that RP cultivation pattern with a suitable planting density (67.5×103 plants/hm2) is promising for rainwater resources utilization and maize production in the drylands of northern China.
Short-term climate reconstruction, i.e., the reproduction of short-term (several decades) historical climatic time series based on the relationship between observed data and available longer-term reference data in a certain area, can extend the length of climatic time series and offset the shortage of observations. This can be used to assess regional climate change over a much longer time scale. Based on monthly grid climate data from a Coupled Model Inter-comparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5) dataset for the period of 1850-2000, the Climatic Research Unit (CRU) dataset for the period of 1901-2000 and the observed data from 53 meteorological stations located in the Tianshan Mountains region (TMR) of China during the period of 1961-2011, we calibrated and validated monthly average temperature (MAT) and monthly accumulated precipitation (MAP) in the TMR using the delta, physical scaling (SP) and artiﬁcial neural network (ANN) methods. Performance and uncertainty during the calibration (1971-1999) and verification (1961-1970) periods were assessed and compared using traditional performance indices and a revised set pair analysis (RSPA) method. The calibration and verification processes were subjected to various sources of uncertainty due to the influence of different reconstructed variables, different data sources, and/or different methods used. According to traditional performance indices, both the CRU and CMIP5 datasets resulted in satisfactory calibrated and verified MAT time series at 53 meteorological stations and MAP time series at 20 meteorological stations using the delta and SP methods for the period of 1961-1999. However, the results differed from those obtained by the RSPA method. This showed that the CRU dataset produced a low degree of uncertainty (positive connection degree) during the calibration and verification of MAT using the delta and SP methods compared to the CMIP5 dataset. Overall, the calibrated and verified MAP had a high degree of uncertainty (negative connection degree) regardless of the dataset or reconstruction method used. Therefore, the reconstructed time series of MAT for the period of 1850 (or 1901)-1960 based on the CRU and CMIP5 datasets using the delta and SP methods could be used for further study. The results of this study will be useful for short-term (several decades) regional climate reconstruction and longer-term (100 a or more) assessments of regional climate change.
Playing an important role in global warming and plant growth, relative humidity (RH) has profound impacts on production and living, and can be used as an integrated indicator for evaluating the wet-dry conditions in the arid and semi-arid area. However, information on the spatial-temporal variation and the influencing factors of RH in these regions is still limited. This study attempted to use daily meteorological data during 1966-2017 to reveal the spatial-temporal characteristics of RH in the arid region of Northwest China through rotated empirical orthogonal function and statistical analysis method, and the path analysis was used to clarify the impact of temperature (T), precipitation (P), actual evapotranspiration (ETa), wind speed (W) and sunshine duration (S) on RH. The results demonstrated that climatic conditions in North Xinjiang (NXJ) was more humid than those in Hexi Corridor (HXC) and South Xinjiang (SXJ). RH had a less significant downtrend in NXJ than that in HXC, but an increasingly rising trend was observed in SXJ during the last five decades, implying that HXC and NXJ were under the process of droughts, while SXJ was getting wetter. There was a turning point for the trend of RH in Xinjiang, which occurred in 2000. Path analysis indicated that RH was negatively correlated to T, ETa, W and S, but it increased with increase of P. S, T and W had the greatest direct effects on RH in HXC, NXJ and SXJ, respectively. ETa was the factor which had the greatest indirect effect on RH in HXC and NXJ, while T was the dominant factor in SXJ.
Since the Grain for Green (GFG) program was implemented in 1999, most steeply sloping farmlands in the Loess Plateau of China have been returned to forestland and grassland. To understand its impact on the food production, this study analyzed the spatiotemporal changes of food crop production (FCP) in the plateau and quantified the contribution of sown area and yield changes to the total FCP during 1998-2014 using factor decomposition models, and then discussed the impact of GFG program on the FCP based on literature data. With the implementation of GFG program, total sown area in the Loess Plateau quickly deceased by 17.3% from 1998 to 2003, and then gradually restored to 1.03×107 hm2 in 2010. Thereafter, it slightly decreased to 1.02×107 hm2 (94.6% of the area in 1998) in 2014. By contrast, total FCP generally showed an apparent growth trend, averagely increased by 1.71% per year in the whole plateau during 1998-2014. This increase was jointly contributed by the improved yield of individual crops, and the adjustment of cropping structure, i.e., the expansion of high yield maize crop. The factor decomposition analysis results indicate that the sown area shrinkage only reduced the growth rate of total FCP by 0.29% per year during 1998-2014, although a significant impact was found for the early stage of 1999-2003. The results suggest that the implementation of GFG program would not induce an obvious risk of the food security. Therefore, it is suggested that the GFG program should be set as a long-term strategic policy, by not only supporting the conversion of slope farmlands, but also helping local farmers to seek sustainable ways of land use to improve the income and livelihood. It can be combined with the poverty eradication program, to simultaneously achieve the national goals of ecological civilization building and the livelihood improvement of rural people in the Loess Plateau. Considering rainfall limitation, the conversion of slope farmlands should be prioritized to grasslands.
Many desert expressways are affected by the deposition of the wind-blown sand, which might block the movement of vehicles or cause accidents. W-beam central guardrails, which are used to improve the safety of desert expressways, are thought to influence the deposition of the wind-blown sand, but this has yet not to be studied adequately. To address this issue, we conducted a wind tunnel test to simulate and explore how the W-beam central guardrails affect the airflow, the wind-blown sand flux and the deposition of the wind-blown sand on desert expressways in sandy regions. The subgrade model is 3.5 cm high and 80.0 cm wide, with a bank slope ratio of 1:3. The W-beam central guardrails model is 3.7 cm high, which included a 1.4-cm-high W-beam and a 2.3-cm-high stand column. The wind velocity was measured by using pitot-static tubes placed at nine different heights (1, 2, 3, 5, 7, 10, 15, 30 and 50 cm) above the floor of the chamber. The vertical distribution of the wind-blown sand flux in the wind tunnel was measured by using the sand sampler, which was sectioned into 20 intervals. In addition, we measured the wind-blown sand flux in the field at K50 of the Bachu-Shache desert expressway in the Taklimakan Desert on 11 May 2016, by using a customized 78-cm-high gradient sand sampler for the sand flux structure test. Obstruction by the subgrade leads to the formation of two weak wind zones located at the foot of the windward slope and at the leeward slope of the subgrade, and the wind velocity on the leeward side weakens significantly. The W-beam central guardrails decrease the leeward wind velocity, whereas the velocity increases through the bottom gaps and over the top of the W-beam central guardrails. The vertical distribution of the wind-blown sand flux measured by wind tunnel follows neither a power-law nor an exponential function when affected by either the subgrade or the W-beam central guardrails. At 0.0H and 0.5H (where H=3.5 cm, which is the height of the subgrade), the sand transport is less at the 3 cm height from the subgrade surface than at the 1 and 5 cm heights as a result of obstruction by the W-beam central guardrails, and the maximum sand transportation occurs at the 5 cm height affected by the subgrade surface. The average saltation height in the presence of the W-beam central guardrails is greater than the subgrade height. The field test shows that the sand deposits on the overtaking lane leeward of the W-beam central guardrails and that the thickness of the deposited sand is determined by the difference in the sand mass transported between the inlet and outlet points, which is consistent with the position of the minimum wind velocity in the wind tunnel test. The results of this study could help us to understand the hazards of the wind-blown sand onto subgrade with the W-beam central guardrails.
To date, much of research on revegetation has focused on soil microorganisms due to their contributions in the formation of soil and soil remediation process. However, little is known about the soil bacteria and their functions respond to the diverse vegetational types in the process of vegetation restoration. Effects of dominated vegetation, i.e., Artemisia halodendron Turcz Ex Bess, Caragana microphylla Lam., Hedysarum fruticosum Pall. and Pinus sylvestris L. on bacterial community structures and their potential functions in the Hulun Buir Sandy Land, China were determined using high-throughput 16S rRNA gene sequencing and phylogenetic investigation of communities by reconstruction of unobserved states (PICRUSt) in 2015. Although the dominant phyla of soil bacterial community among different types of vegetation, including Proteobacteria, Actinobacteria, Acidobacteria, Bacteroidetes and Firmicutes, were similar, the relative abundance of these dominant groups significantly differed, indicating that different types of vegetation might result in variations in the composition of soil bacterial community. In addition, functional genes of bacterial populations were similar among different types of vegetation, whereas its relative abundance was significantly differed. Most carbon fixation genes showed a high relative abundance in P. sylvestris, vs. recalcitrant carbon decomposition genes in A. halodendron, suggesting the variations in carbon cycling potential of different types of vegetation. Abundance of assimilatory nitrate reduction genes was the highest in P. sylvestris, vs. dissimilatory nitrate reduction and nitrate reductase genes in A. halodendron, indicating higher nitrogen gasification loss and lower nitrogen utilization gene functions in A. halodendron. The structures and functional genes of soil bacterial community showed marked sensitivities to different plant species, presenting the potentials for regulating soil carbon and nitrogen cycling.
The Penman-Monteith (PM) method is the most widely used technique to estimate potential worldwide evapotranspiration. However, current research shows that there may be significant errors in the application of this method in arid areas, although questions remain as to the degree of this estimation error and how different surface conditions may affect the estimation error. To address these issues, we evaluated the uncertainty of the PM method under different underlying conditions in an arid area of Northwest China by analyzing data from 84 meteorological stations and various Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) products, including land surface temperature and surface albedo. First, we found that when the PM method used air temperature to calculate the slope of the saturation vapor pressure curve, it significantly overestimated the potential evapotranspiration; the mean annual and July-August overestimation was 83.9 and 36.7 mm, respectively. Second, the PM method usually set the surface albedo to a fixed value, which led to the potential evapotranspiration being underestimated; the mean annual underestimation was 27.5 mm, while the overestimation for July to August was 5.3 mm. Third, the PM method significantly overestimated the potential evapotranspiration in the arid area. This difference in estimation was closely related to the underlying surface conditions. For the entire arid zone, the PM method overestimated the potential evapotranspiration by 33.7 mm per year, with an overestimation of 29.0 mm from July to August. The most significant overestimation was evident in the mountainous and plain non-vegetation areas, in which the annual mean overestimation reached 5% and 10%, respectively; during July, there was an estimation of 10% and 20%, respectively. Although the annual evapotranspiration of the plains with better vegetation coverage was slightly underestimated, overestimation still occurred in July and August, with a mean overestimation of approximately 5%. In order to estimate potential evapotranspiration in the arid zone, it is important that we identify a reasonable parameter with which to calibrate the PM formula, such as the slope of the saturation vapor pressure curve, and the surface albedo. We recommend that some parameters must be corrected when using PM in order to estimate potential evapotranspiration in arid regions.
Jizzakh Province in Uzbekistan is one of the largest irrigated areas in Central Asia without natural drainage. In combination with aridity, climate change and extensive irrigation practices, this has led to the widespread salinization of agricultural land. The aim of this study was to identify opportunities to improve the reclamation status of the irrigated area and how best to effectively use the water resources in Jizzakh Province based on investigations conducted between 1995 and 2016. A database of field measurements of groundwater levels, mineralization and soil salinity conducted by the provincial Hydro-Geological Reclamation Expeditions was used in the study. The total groundwater mineralization was determined using a portable electric conductometer (Progress 1T) and the chloride concentration was determined using the Mohr method. The soil salinity analyses were conducted by applying two different methods: (1) the extraction and assessment of the soluble salt content, and (2) using an SM-138 conductivity sensor applied to a 1:1 mixture of soil sample and water. The analyses of the monitoring results and the salt balance in the "irrigation water-soil-drainage water" system clearly demonstrated that the condition of the irrigated land in the province was not significantly improved. Under these conditions, the stability of crop yields is achieved mainly through the use of large volumes of fertilizer. However, excess amounts of mineral fertilizers can also cause the salinization of soils. The average groundwater salinization value in most of the irrigated land (75.3%) fluctuated between 1.1 and 5.0 g/L, while the values were less than 1.0 g/L in 13.1% of the land and in the range of 5.1-10.0 g/L in 10.5% of the land. During the period of 1995-2016 the salinization level of the irrigated land in Jizzakh Province increased slightly and the area could be divided into the following classes: no salinity (17.7% of the total area), low salinity (51.3%), moderate salinity (29.0%), and high salinity (2.0%). Detailed studies of the salt balance in irrigated land, the impact of climate change, increased fertilizer use, and repeated remediation leaching on the groundwater level and mineralization should be conducted in the future, due to the possibility of accelerated salinization, fertility decline, and reduced yields of agricultural crops.
Determining the mechanisms controlling the changes of wet and dry conditions will improve our understanding of climate change over the past hundred years, which is of great significance to the study of climate and environmental changes in the arid regions of Central Asia. Forest trees are ecologically significant in the local environment, and therefore the tree ring analysis can provide a clear record of regional historical climate. This study analyzed the correlation between the tree ring width chronology of Juniperus turkestanica Komarov and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) in Northwest Tajikistan, based on 56 tree ring samples collected from Shahristan in the Pamir region. Climate data including precipitation, temperature and the SPEI were downloaded from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) TS 4.00. The COFECHA program was used for cross-dating, and the ARSTAN program was used to remove the growth trend of the tree itself and the influence of non-climatic factors on the growth of the trees. A significant correlation was found between the radial growth of J. turkestanica trees and the monthly mean SPEI of February-April. The monthly mean SPEI sequence of February-April during the period of 1895-2016 was reconstructed, and the reconstruction equation explained 42.5% of the variance. During the past 122 a (1895-2016), the study area has experienced three wetter periods (precipitation above average): 1901-1919, 1945-1983 and 1995-2010, and four drier periods (precipitation below average): 1895-1900, 1920-1944, 1984-1994 and 2011-2016. The spatial correlation analysis revealed that the monthly mean SPEI reconstruction sequence of February-April could be used to characterize the large-scale dry-wet variations in Northwest Tajikistan during the period of 1895-2016. This study could provide comparative data for validating the projections of climate models and scientific basis for managing water resources in Tajikistan in the context of climate change.
Snow resisting capacity of vegetation is important for secondary distribution of water resources in seasonal snow areas of grassland because it affects the regeneration, growth and nutrient circulation of vegetation in grassland. This study investigated vegetation characteristics (canopy height, canopy length and crown width) of Caragana microphylla Lam. (shrub) and Achnatherum splendens (Trin.) Nevski. (herb), and snow morphologies (snow depth, snow width and snow braid length) in a typical steppe region of Inner Mongolia, China in 2017. And the influence of vegetation characteristic on snow resisting capacity (the indices of bottom area of snow and snow volume reflect snow resisting capacity) was analyzed. The results showed that snow morphology depends on vegetation characteristics of shrub and herb. The canopy height was found to have the greatest influence on snow depth and the crown width had the greatest influence on snow width. The canopy length was found to have little influence on morphological parameters of snow. When the windward areas of C. microphylla and A. splendens were within the ranges of 0.0-0.5 m2 and 0.0-8.0 m2, respectively, the variation of snow cover was large; however, beyond these areas, the variation of snow cover became gradually stable. The potential area of snow retardation for a single plant was 1.5-2.5 m2 and the amount of snow resistance was 0.15-0.20 m3. The bottom area of snow and snow volume (i.e., snow resisting capacity) of clumped C. microphylla and A. splendens was found to be 4 and 25 times that of individual plant, respectively. The results could provide a theoretical basis both for the estimation of snow cover and the establishment of a plant-based technical system for the control of windblown snow in the typical steppe region of Inner Mongolia.
In order to enhance and restore the ecosystems of natural capital in African arid regions, the Global Dryland Ecosystem Programme (G-DEP) consultative meeting was hosted in Dakar, Senegal, from 23 to 25 September 2019. This paper details the first African meeting of the G-DEP. Consultative meeting reviewed preceding dryland ecosystems case studies, identified vulnerable arid and semi-arid regions, and proposed sustainable solutions to problems. It also identified the successes and failures of previous attempts to improve vulnerable ecosystems and ultimately formed an action plan to improve these attempts. Climate, ecosystems, and livelihoods for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Great Green Wall Initiative (GGWI) for Sahara and Sahel, and China-Africa cooperation on science, technology, and innovation are three extra main sections concerned of the meeting. Separately, more specific topics as the complicated relationship between these natural processes and human activity, including pastoralism, soil restoration, and vegetation regenerate techniques, were fully discussed. Consultative meeting also identified the positive effects international collaboration can have on dryland regions, specifically in the capacity of sharing information, technology, and innovation on purpose to develop a joint proposal for long-term research programs in African arid and semi-arid areas. Moreover, meetings that review the progress made on ecosystem management for the sustainable livelihoods in Africa, identification of priority areas, and the development and implementation of ecosystem programs for proper research and collaboration in African arid and semi-arid zones, have been proposed as strategic recommendations to enhance the global partnership for sustainable development. Furthermore, as the outcomes of the workshop, there are three steps proposed to handle African dryland climate changes, several aspects suggested to solve current dilemmas of the GGWI, and a series of actions recommended for G-DEP related activities in Africa.
It is widely accepted that hydrogeochemistry of saline springs is extremely important to understand the water circulation and evolution of saline basins and to evaluate the potential of potassium-rich evaporites. The Kuqa Basin, located in the northern part of the Tarim Basin in Northwest China, is a saline basin regarded as the most potential potash-seeking area. However, the origin and water circulation processes of saline springs have yet to be fully characterized in this saline basin. In this study, a total of 30 saline spring samples and 11 river water samples were collected from the Qiulitage Structural Belt (QSB) of the Kuqa Basin. They were analyzed for major (K+, Ca2+, Na+, Mg2+, SO42-, Cl- and HCO3-) and trace (Sr2+ and Br-) ion concentrations, stable H-O-Sr isotopes and tritium concentrations in combination with previously published hydrogeochemical and isotopic (H-O) data in the same area. It is found that the water chemical type of saline springs in the study area belonged to the Na-Cl type, and that of river water belonged to the Ca-Mg-HCO3-SO4 type. The total dissolved solid (TDS) of saline springs in the QSB ranged from 117.77 to 314.92 g/L, reaching the brine level. On the basis of the general chemical compositions and the characteristics of the stable H-O-Sr isotopes of saline springs, we infer that those saline springs mainly originated from precipitation following river water recharging. In addition, we found that saline springs were not formed by evapo-concentration because it is unlikely that the high chloride concentration of saline springs resulted in evapo-concentration and high salinity. Therefore, we conclude that saline spring water may have experienced intense evapo-concentration before dissolving the salty minerals or after returning to the surface. The results show that the origin of salinity was mainly dominated by dissolving salty minerals due to the river water and/or precipitation that passed through the halite-rich stratum. Moreover, there are two possible origins of saline springs in the QSB: one is the infiltration of the meteoric water (river water), which then circulates deep into the earth, wherein it dissolves salty minerals, travels along the fault and returns to the surface; another is the mixture of formation water, or the mixture of seawater or marine evaporate sources and its subsequent discharge to the surface under fault conditions. Our findings provide new insight into the possible saltwater circulation and evolution of saline basins in the Tarim Basin.
The implementation of the Grain for Green Program (GGP) has changed the development track of the agricultural eco-economic system in China. In response to the results of a lag study that investigated the coupling between the GGP and the agricultural eco-economic system in a loess hilly region, we used a structural equation model to analyze the survey data from 494 households in Ansai, a district of Yan'an City in Shaanxi Province of China in 2015. The model clarified the direction and intensity of the coupling between the GGP and the agricultural eco-economic system. The coupling benefits were derived through linkages between the program and various chains in the agricultural eco-economic system. The GGP, the agroecosystem of Ansai and their potential coupling effects were in a state of general coordination. The agroecosystem directly affected the coupling effect, with the standardized path coefficient of 0.87, indicating that the agroecosystem in Ansai at this stage provided basic material support for the coupling between the GGP and the agricultural eco-economic system. The direct path coefficient of agroeconomic system impacted on the coupling effect was -0.76, indicating that partial contradictions occurred between the agroeconomic system and the coupling effect. Therefore, although the current agroecosystem in Ansai should be provided sufficient agroecological resources for the benign coupling between the program and the agricultural eco-economic system, agricultural development failed to effectively transform agroecological resources into agricultural economic advantages in this region, which resulted in a relative lag in the development of the agricultural economic system. Thus, the coupling between the GGP and the agricultural eco-economic system was poor. To improve the coupling and the sustainable development of the agricultural eco-economic system in cropland retirement areas, the industrial structure needs to be diversified, the agricultural resources (including agroecological resources, agricultural economic resources and agricultural social resources) need to be rationally allocated, and the chain structure of the agricultural eco-economic system needs to be continuously improved.
The Chinese Loess Plateau is known as one of the most severe soil erosion regions in the world. Two ecological restoration projects, i.e., the integrated soil conservation project since the 1970s and the ''Grain for Green'' project since 1999, have been progressively implemented to control the soil erosion in this area. Ecological restoration has greatly changed flow regime over the past five decades. However, the mechanism of how flow regime responds to ecological restoration among landforms remains poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the temporal dynamics of flow regime in three catchments, i.e., Wuqi, Honghe and Huangling hydrological stations, respectively representing the loess hilly-gully, loess table-gully and rocky mountain (covered by secondary forest) areas in the Chinese Loess Plateau, using daily hydrological data during the 1960s-2010s. The nonparametric Mann-Kendall test, Pettitt's test and daily flow series were used to investigate the changes of flow regime. Significantly negative trends of annual streamflow were detected at the Wuqi and Honghe stations, except for the Huangling station. The annual baseflow at the Wuqi station showed a significantly positive trend whereas a significantly negative trend was observed at the Honghe station, and there was no significant trend at the Huangling station. It was interesting that baseflow index significantly increased during the whole period in all catchments. However, the trends and change points of daily flow series derived by different percentages of exceedance and extreme series in different consecutive days varied among individuals. Based on the change points analysis of annual streamflow, we divided data series into three periods, i.e., the baseline period (from 1959 and 1963 to 1979, PI), the integrated soil conservation period (1980-1999, PII) and the ''Grain for Green'' period (2000-2011, PIII). We found that streamflow decreased due to the reduction of high streamflow (exceeding 5% of time within a year) and median streamflow (50%) in PII and PIII at the Wuqi and Honghe stations. However, low flow (95%) increased in PII and PIII at the Wuqi station while decreased at the Honghe station. Streamflow change at the Huangling station was more stable, thus potentially resulting in much less soil erosion in the forestry area than in the other areas. The great improvement in ecological environment on the Chinese Loess Plateau revealed the advantages of ecological restoration in reducing flood amount and compensating streamflow at a regional scale.
Detecting change features of climate variables in arid/semi-arid areas is essential for understanding related climate change patterns and the driving and evolution mechanism between climate and arid/semi-arid ecosystems. This paper takes Inner Mongolia of China, a unique arid/semi-arid ecosystem, as the study area. We first detected trend features of climate variables using the linear trend analysis method and then detected their trend-shift features using the breaks for additive seasonal and trend method based on the time-series of monthly precipitation and monthly mean temperature datasets from 1962 to 2016. We analyzed the different change features of precipitation and temperature on a regional scale and in different ecological zones to discover the spatial heterogeneity of change features. The results showed that Inner Mongolia has become warmer-wetter during the past 54 years. The regional annual mean temperature increased 0.4°C per decade with a change rate of 56.2%. The regional annual precipitation increased 0.07 mm per decade with a slightly change rate of about 1.7%, but the trend was not statistically significant. The warmer trend was contributed by the same positive trend in each season, while the wetter trend was contributed by the negative trend of the summer precipitation and the positive trend of the other three seasons. The regional monthly precipitation series had a trend-shift pattern with a structural breakpoint in the year 1999, while the regional monthly mean temperature series showed an increasing trend without a periodical trend-shift. After the year 2000, the warmer-wetter trend of the climate in Inner Mongolia was accelerated. The late 20th century was a key period, because the acceleration of the wetter trend in some local zones (I and II) and the alleviation of the warmer trend in some local zones (VII, VIII and IX) occurred simultaneously. Moreover, the change features had a strong spatial heterogeneity, the southeastern and southwestern of Inner Mongolia went through a warmer-drier trend compared with the other areas. The spatio-temporal heterogeneity of the climate change features is a necessary background for various types of research, such as regional climate change, the evolution of arid/semi-arid ecosystems, and the interaction mechanisms between climate and arid/semi-arid ecosystems based on earth-system models in Inner Mongolia.
Talinopsis frutescens (Anacampserotaceae, a family that is close related to Cactaceae) is a succulent species endemic to North America. The aim of this study was to explore, using Ecological Niche Modeling (ENM), changes in potential distribution ranges considering different climate scenarios: past conditions during the Last Inter Glacial (LIG) and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM), the present and projections for 2070 (RCP 2.6 to 8.5). A pattern of contraction is observed during the LIG, which agrees with other studies focused in species from arid environments. This pattern was followed by a migration towards the south during the LGM and a possible recent expansion to the north as is observed in the present scenario. All future projections show the same contraction and fragmentation patterns, resulting in three discontinuous areas: the northern part of the Chihuahuan Desert, the southern-central part of the Mexican Plateau, and the smallest one in the Tehuacán-Cuicatlán Valley. Our projections for future scenarios agree with other studies and support that global climate change tends to alter the current distribution of arid environment species.
Water resources are precious in arid and semi-arid areas such as the Wadis of Iran. To sustainably manage these limited water resources, the residents of the Iranian Wadis have been traditionally using several water use systems (WUSs) which affect natural hydrological processes. In this study, WUSs and soil and water conservation measures (SWCMs) were integrated in a hydrological model of the Halilrood Basin in Iran. The Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) model was used to simulate the hydrological processes between 1993 and 2009 at daily time scale. To assess the importance of WUSs and SWCMs, we compared a model setup without WUSs and SWCMs (Default model) with a model setup with WUSs and SWCMs (WUS-SWCM model). When compared to the observed daily stream flow, the number of acceptable calibration runs as defined by the performance thresholds (Nash-Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE)≥0.68, -25%≤percent bias (PBIAS)≤25% and ratio of standard deviation (RSR)≤0.56) is 177 for the Default model and 1945 for the WUS-SWCM model. Also, the average Kling-Gupta ef?ciency (KGE) of acceptable calibration runs for the WUS-SWCM model is higher in both calibration and validation periods. When WUSs and SWCMs are implemented, surface runoff (between 30% and 99%) and water yield (between 0 and 18%) decreased in all sub-basins. Moreover, SWCMs lead to a higher contribution of groundwater flow to the channel and compensate for the extracted water by WUSs from the shallow aquifer. In summary, implementing WUSs and SWCMs in the SWAT model enhances model plausibility significantly.
Functional structure and diversity of soil free-living nematodes in a desert environment depend on plant gender and sampling site. The objective of this study was to compare the composition, abundance and tropic group of soil free-living nematodes in the upper 0-10 cm soil layer under the male and female Acanthosicyos horridus Welw. ex Hook. f. plants and in the inter-shrub open areas (control) in the Namib Desert, Namibia in April 2015. Soil moisture, organic matter (OM) and pH was also analyzed. Free-living nematodes were extracted from 100 g soil using the Baermann funnel procedure, and total number of nematodes was counted under a microscope. Community composition and diversity of soil free-living nematodes were analyzed using 18S rDNA sequences. Results indicated that a total of 67 groups, including 64 species, 2 genera and 1 family were identified. Feeding behavior of 58 species were identified as follows: 15 bacteria-feeding species, 12 fungi-feeding species, 10 plant-parasite species, 5 omnivorous-predator species, 8 animal-parasite species, 5 invertebrate-parasite species and 3 non-free-living nematodes, known as marine species. Moreover, soil free-living nematodes were found to be affected by sampling locations and plant gender, and community composition and density of these nematodes were strongly influenced by soil OM content. Result confirmed that spatial location and plant cover were main factors influencing the diversity of soil free-living nematodes. Moreover, molecular tools were found to be very useful in defining the richness of soil non-free-living nematodes. In conclusion, the results elucidated the importance of biotic variables in determining the composition and abundance of soil free-living nematodes in the Namib Desert, Namibia.
As the sand mass flux increases from zero at the leading edge of a saltating surface to the equilibrium mass flux at the critical fetch length, the wind flow is modified and then the relative contribution of aerodynamic and bombardment entrainment is changed. In the end the velocity, trajectory and mass flux profile will vary simultaneously. But how the transportation of different sand size groups varies with fetch distance is still unclear. Wind tunnel experiments were conducted to investigate the fetch effect on mass flux and its distribution with height of the total sand and each size group in transportation. The mass flux was measured at six fetch length locations (0.5, 1.2, 1.9, 2.6, 3.4 and 4.1 m) and at three free-stream wind velocities (8.8, 12.2 and 14.5 m/s). The results reveal that the total mass flux and the mass flux of each size group with height can be expressed by q=aexp(-bh), where q is the sand mass flux at height h, and a and b are regression coefficients. The coefficient b represents the relative decay rate. Both the relative decay rates of total mass flux and each size group are independent of fetch length after a quick decay over a short fetch. This is much shorter than that of mass flux. The equilibrium of the relative decay rate cannot be regarded as an equilibrium mass flux profile for aeolian sand transport. The mass fluxes of 176.0, 209.3 and 148.0 μm size groups increase more quickly than that of other size groups, which indicates strong size-selection of grains exists along the fetch length. The maximal size group in mass flux (176.0 μm) is smaller than the maximal size group of the bed grains (209.3 μm). The relative contribution of each size group to the total mass flux is not monotonically decreasing with grain size due to the lift-off of some small grains being reduced due to the protection by large grains. The results indicate that there are complex interactions among different size groups in the developmental process of aeolian sand transport and more attention should be focused on the fetch effect because it has different influences on the total mass flux, the mass flux profile and its relative decay rate.
Understanding variability in seed germination among populations is essential for planning an effective germplasm collection for restoration and conservation purposes. The knowledge of germination and dormancy patterns among populations of desert grasses is crucial for determining the potential of the species and populations to be used for restoration and conservation as well as forage production. Variability in seed germination of Panicum turgidum Forssk and Pennisetum divisum (Gmel.) Henr. in the desert of Kuwait was evaluated in different populations in May 2017. Experiment of seed germination (25 seeds and 4 replicates) was conducted for each population at night/day temperatures of 15°C/20°C and 20°C/30°C under the following light condition: continuous darkness or 12 h/12 h light/dark. Results showed that seed masses of both species strongly varied according to their seed provenances, and both species produced heavier seeds in population with a higher soil electrical conductivity. Seed germination percentage considerably varied between two species, and the variation in P. turgidum was greater (17%-49%) than that of P. divisum (72%-93%). Germination percentage in P. turgidum was greater at high temperature (20°C/30°C) than at low temperature (15°C/20°C). However, temperature regimes had no effect on germination percentage of P. divisum seeds. Mean germination time of both species exhibited significant inter-population variability. This result is especially relevant to assure the selection of the best population of each species and the regeneration success of the species. Besides this, inter-population variability also provides valuable information for enhancing our understanding of the mechanisms that regulate seed germination and how they might be related to seed provenance.
Succession is one of the central themes of ecology; however, the relationship between aboveground plant communities and underground soils during secondary succession remains unclear. In this study, we investigated the composition of plant community, plant-soil C:N:P stoichiometry and their relationships during secondary succession after the abandonment of farmlands for 0, 10, 20, 30, 40 and 50 a in China, 2016. Results showed that the composition of plant communities was most diverse in the farmlands after secondary succession for 20 and 50 a. Soil organic carbon and total nitrogen contents slightly decreased after secondary succession for 30 a, but both were significantly higher than those of control farmland (31.21%-139.10% and 24.24%-121.21%, respectively). Moreover, C:N ratios of soil and microbe greatly contributed to the changes in plant community composition during secondary succession of abandoned farmlands, explaining 35.70% of the total variation. Particularly, soil C:N ratio was significantly and positively related with the Shannon-Wiener index. This study provides the evidence of synchronous evolution between plant community and soil during secondary succession and C:N ratio is an important linkage between them.
Changes in ecological stoichiometry reflect nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and both N and P limitations in a plant community, which in turn affect plant diversity of the community. However, the relationship between plant community diversity and ecological stoichiometry has not yet been fully researched in arid and semi-arid regions. Ecological stoichiometry and plant community diversity indices of eighteen communities in the upper reaches of Tarim River, northwestern China, were analyzed by multivariate analysis of variance in 2016. The correlation between ecological stoichiometry and plant community diversity was assessed by redundancy analysis (RDA). Results indicated that the Margalef index was significantly correlated with carbon (C) and P concentrations, the Simpson index and Shannon-Weaner index were significantly correlated with plant C concentration, and the Pielou index was significantly correlated with plant C and N concentrations. Moreover, C:N and C:P ratios had significant impacts on plant community diversity. Our results highlight the importance of ecological stoichiometry in driving plant community diversity in the upper reaches of Tarim River, northwestern China.
Ecosystems in high-altitude regions are more sensitive and respond more rapidly than other ecosystems to global climate warming. The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) of China is an ecologically fragile zone that is sensitive to global climate warming. It is of great importance to study the changes in aboveground biomass and species diversity of alpine meadows on the QTP under predicted future climate warming. In this study, we selected an alpine meadow on the QTP as the study object and used infrared radiators as the warming device for a simulation experiment over eight years (2011-2018). We then analyzed the dynamic changes in aboveground biomass and species diversity of the alpine meadow at different time scales, including an early stage of warming (2011-2013) and a late stage of warming (2016-2018), in order to explore the response of alpine meadows to short-term (three years) and long-term warming (eight years). The results showed that the short-term warming increased air temperature by 0.31°C and decreased relative humidity by 2.54%, resulting in the air being warmer and drier. The long-term warming increased air temperature and relative humidity by 0.19°C and 1.47%, respectively, and the air tended to be warmer and wetter. The short-term warming increased soil temperature by 2.44°C and decreased soil moisture by 12.47%, whereas the long-term warming increased soil temperature by 1.76°C and decreased soil moisture by 9.90%. This caused the shallow soil layer to become warmer and drier under both short-term and long-term warming. Furthermore, the degree of soil drought was alleviated with increased warming duration. Under the long-term warming, the importance value and aboveground biomass of plants in different families changed. The importance values of grasses and sedges decreased by 47.56% and 3.67%, respectively, while the importance value of weeds increased by 1.37%. Aboveground biomass of grasses decreased by 36.55%, while those of sedges and weeds increased by 8.09% and 15.24%, respectively. The increase in temperature had a non-significant effect on species diversity. The species diversity indices increased at the early stage of warming and decreased at the late stage of warming, but none of them reached significant levels (P>0.05). Species diversity had no significant correlation with soil temperature and soil moisture under both short-term and long-term warming. Soil temperature and aboveground biomass were positively correlated in the control plots (P=0.014), but negatively correlated under the long-term warming (P=0.013). Therefore, eight years of warming aggravated drought in the shallow soil layer, which is beneficial for the growth of weeds but not for the growth of grasses. Warming changed the structure of alpine meadow communities and had a certain impact on the community species diversity. Our studies have great significance for the protection and effective utilization of alpine vegetation, as well as for the prevention of grassland degradation or desertification in high-altitude regions.
The shear stress generated by the wind on the land surface is the driving force that results in the wind erosion of the soil. It is an independent factor influencing soil wind erosion. The factors related to wind erosivity, known as submodels, mainly include the weather factor (WF) in revised wind erosion equation (RWEQ), the erosion submodel (ES) in wind erosion prediction system (WEPS), as well as the drift potential (DP) in wind energy environmental assessment. However, the essential factors of WF and ES contain wind, soil characteristics and surface coverings, which therefore results in the interdependence between WF or ES and other factors (e.g., soil erodible factor) in soil erosion models. Considering that DP is a relative indicator of the wind energy environment and does not have the value of expressing wind to induce shear stress on the surface. Therefore, a new factor is needed to express accurately wind erosivity. Based on the theoretical basis that the soil loss by wind erosion (Q) is proportional to the shear stress of the wind on the soil surface, a new model of wind driving force (WDF) was established, which expresses the potential capacity of wind to drive soil mass in per unit area and a period of time. Through the calculations in the typical area, the WDF, WF and DP are compared and analyzed from the theoretical basis, construction goal, problem-solving ability and typical area application; the spatial distribution of soil wind erosion intensity was concurrently compared with the spatial distributions of the WDF, WF and DP values in the typical area. The results indicate that the WDF is better to reflect the potential capacity of wind erosivity than WF and DP, and that the WDF model is a good model with universal applicability and can be logically incorporated into the soil wind erosion models.
Regulation of leaf gas exchange plays an important role in the survival of trees and shrubs under future climate change. However, the responses of leaf water potential and gas exchange of shrubs in semi-arid areas to the precipitation alteration are not clear. Here, we conducted a manipulated experiment with three levels of precipitation, i.e., a control with ambient precipitation, 50% above ambient precipitation (irrigation treatment), and 50% below ambient precipitation (drought treatment), with two common shrubs, Salix psammophila C. Wang & C. Y. Yang (isohydric plant, maintaining a constant leaf water potential by stomatal regulation) and Caragana korshinskii Kom. (anisohydric plant, having more variable leaf water potential), on the Chinese Loess Plateau in 2014 and 2015. We measured the seasonal variations of predawn and midday leaf water potential (Ψpd and Ψmd), two parameters of gas exchange, i.e., light-saturated assimilation (An) and stomatal conductance (gs), and other foliar and canopy traits. The isohydric S. psammophila had a similar An and a higher gs than the anisohydric C. korshinskii under drought treatment in 2015, inconsistent with the view that photosynthetic capacity of anisohydric plants is higher than isohydric plants under severe drought. The two shrubs differently responded to precipitation manipulation. Ψpd, An and gs were higher under irrigation treatment than control for S. psammophila, and these three variables and Ψmd were significantly higher under irrigation treatment and lower under drought treatment than control for C. korshinskii. Leaf water potential and gas exchange responded to manipulated precipitation more strongly for C. korshinskii than for S. psammophila. However, precipitation manipulation did not alter the sensitivity of leaf gas exchange to vapor-pressure deficit and soil moisture in these two shrubs. Acclimation to long-term changes in soil moisture in these two shrubs was primarily attributed to the changes in leaf or canopy structure rather than leaf gas exchange. These findings will be useful for modeling canopy water-carbon exchange and elucidating the adaptive strategies of these two shrubs to future changes in precipitation.
In arid areas, ecological degradation aroused by over-exploitation of fresh water, expansion of artificial oasis and shrinkage of natural oasis, has drawn attention of many scholars and officials. The water and ecological footprints can be used to quantitatively evaluate the water consumption of social-economic activities and their influence on the eco-environments. In addition, increase of the water footprint indicates the expansion of artificial oasis, and the influence on the natural oasis could be reflected by the variation of the ecological footprint. This study was conducted to answer a scientific question that what is the quantitative relationship between the expansion of the artificial oasis and the degradation of the natural oasis in the arid environments of Xinjiang, China. Thus, based on the social-economic data, water consumption data and meteorological data during 2001-2015, we calculated the water and ecological footprints to express the human-related pressure exerted on the water resources and arid environments in Xinjiang (including 14 prefectures and cities), and explore the relationship between the water and ecological footprints and its mechanism by using the coupling analysis and Granger causality test. The results show that both the water and ecological footprints of Xinjiang increased significantly during 2001-2015, and the increasing rate of the ecological footprint was much faster than that of the water footprint. The coupling degree between the water and ecological footprints was relatively high at the temporal scale and varied at the spatial scale. Among the 14 prefectures and cities examined in Xinjiang, the greater social-economic development (such as in Karamay and Urumqi) was associated with the lower coupling degree between the two footprints. Increases in the water footprint will cause the ecological footprint to increase, such that a 1-unit increase in the consumption of water resources would lead to 2-3 units of ecological degradation. The quantitative relationship between the increases of the water and ecological footprints, together with the intensities of water consumption both in the natural and artificial oases of Tarim River Basin, have approved the fact that the formation and expansion of 1 unit of the artificial oasis would bring about the degradation of 2 units of the natural oasis. These conclusions not only provide a technical basis for sustainable development in Xinjiang, but also offer a theoretical guide and scientific information that could be used in similar arid areas around the world.
Soil water is a critical resource, and as such is the focus of considerable physical research. Characterization of the distribution and spatial variability of soil water content (SWC) offers important agronomic and environmental information. Estimation of non-stationary and non-linear SWC distribution at different scales is a research challenge. Based on this context, we performed a case study on the Chinese Loess Plateau, with objectives of investigating spatial variability of SWC and soil properties (i.e., soil particle composition, organic matter and bulk density), and determining multi-scale correlations between SWC and soil properties. A total of 86 in situ sampling sites were selected and 516 soil samples (0-60 cm depth with an interval of 10 cm) were collected in May and June of 2019 along the Yangling-Wugong-Qianxian transect, with a length of 25.5 km, in a typical wheat-corn rotation region of the Chinese Loess Plateau. Classical statistics and empirical mode decomposition (EMD) method were applied to evaluate characteristics of the overall and scale-specific spatial variation of SWC, and to explore scale-specific correlations between SWC and soil properties. Results showed that the spatial variability of SWC along the Yangling-Wugong-Qianxian transect was medium to weak, with a variability coefficient range of 0.06-0.18, and it was gradually decreased as scale increased. We categorized the overall SWC for each soil layer under an intrinsic mode function (IMF) number based on the scale of occurrence, and found that the component IMF1 exhibited the largest contribution rates of 36.45%-56.70%. Additionally, by using EMD method, we categorized the general variation of SWC under different numbers of IMFs according to occurrence scale, and the results showed that the calculated scales among SWC for each soil layer increased in correspondence with higher IMF numbers. Approximately 78.00% of the total variance of SWC was extracted in IMF1 and IMF2. Generally, soil texture was the dominant control on SWC, and the influence of the three types of soil properties (soil particle composition, organic matter and bulk density) was more prominent at larger scales along the sampling transect. The influential factors of soil water spatial distribution can be identified and ranked on the basis of the decomposed signal from the current approach, thereby providing critical information for other researchers and natural resource managers.
The criteria used by International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for its Red List of Ecosystems (RLE) are the global standards for ecosystem-level risk assessment, and they have been increasingly used for biodiversity conservation. The changed distribution area of an ecosystem is one of the key criteria in such assessments. The Stipa bungeana grassland is one of the most widely distributed grasslands in the warm-temperate semi-arid regions of China. However, the total distribution area of this grassland was noted to have shrunk and become fragmented because of its conversion to cropland and grazing-induced degradation. Following the IUCN-RLE standards, here we analyzed changes in the geographical distribution of this degraded grassland, to evaluate its degradation and risk of collapse. Past (1950-1980) distribution areas were extracted from the Vegetation Map of China (1:1,000,000). Present realizable distribution areas were equated to these past areas minus any habitat area losses. We then predicted the grassland's present and future (under the Representative Concentration Pathway 8.5 scenario) potential distribution areas using maximum entropy algorithm (MaxEnt), based on field survey data and nine environmental layers. Our results showed that the S. bungeana grassland was mainly distributed in the Loess Plateau, Hexi Corridor, and low altitudes of the Qilian Mountains and Longshou Mountain. This ecosystem occurred mainly on loess soils, kastanozems, steppe aeolian soils and sierozems. Thermal and edaphic factors were the most important factors limiting the distribution of S. bungeana grassland across China. Since 56.1% of its past distribution area (4.9×104 km2) disappeared in the last 50 a, the present realizable distribution area only amounts to 2.2×104 km2. But only 15.7% of its present potential distribution area (14.0×104 km2) is actually occupied by the S. bungeana grassland. The future potential distribution of S. bungeana grassland was predicted to shift towards northwest, and the total area of this ecosystem will shrink by 12.4% over the next 50 a under the most pessimistic climate change scenario. Accordingly, following the IUCN-RLE criteria, we deemed the S. bungeana grassland ecosystem in China to be endangered (EN). Revegetation projects and the establishment of protected areas are recommended as effective ways to avert this looming crisis. This empirical modeling study provides an example of how IUCN-RLE categories and criteria may be valuably used for ecosystem assessments in China and abroad.
Scarce and scattered precipitation in arid regions is detrimental for newly planted seedlings. It is essential to provide required water storage for seedlings in restoration projects in the first year of their establishment. The subsurface irrigation can be much more effective than the surface irrigation because of the regulation of water availability and reduction in water evaporation. We studied the effect of surface and subsurface irrigation methods on the growth and survival of four common tree species including heaven tree (Ailanthus altissima (Mill.) Swingle), China berry (Melia azedarach L.), white mulberry (Morus alba L.), and black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia L.) by installing underground clay reservoirs with different permeabilities in Isfahan City, Iran. Different amounts of animal manure and wheat straw were mixed with clay fraction and cooked in a pottery kiln at 900°C to produce reservoirs with different permeabilities. The experimental treatments consisting of irrigation and tree species were considered with a factorial arrangement in a completely randomized design with three replications in 2016 and 2017. Leaf water potential of seedlings, which is indirectly related to drought resistance, was measured by a portable pressure chamber. The results showed that saplings height, basal diameter, number of leaves, chlorophyll content and stomatal conductance were significantly (P<0.05) higher in the subsurface irrigation with low permeability than in the surface irrigation, but the number of branches of the studied species were not significantly (P>0.05) affected by the irrigation methods and different permeabilities of clay reservoirs. The clay reservoirs with low and medium permeabilities constantly provide better conditions for plant growth, and water with lower pressure and longer time intervals to the plant roots as compared with the reservoirs with high permeability. Analysis of variance of the data showed that year and interaction between year and permeability of reservoir had significant effects (P<0.05) on all growth parameters, except for the chlorophyll content. In addition, the highest percentage of survival was 100% associated with the subsurface irrigation and the control treatment had the lowest survival percentages of 60%, 70%, 80% and 100% for M. alba, M. azedarach, A. altissima and R. pseudoacacia, respectively. Finally, the values of leaf water potential showed that R. pseudoacacia was the most drought resistant species.
Salinization is a gradual process that should be monitored. Modelling is a suitable alternative technique that saves time and cost for the field monitoring. But the performance of the models should be evaluated using the measured data. Therefore, the aim of this study was to evaluate and compare the SALTMED and HYDRUS-1D models using the measured soil water content, soil salinity and wheat yield data under different levels of saline irrigation water and groundwater depth. The field experiment was conducted in 2013 and in this research three controlled groundwater depths, i.e., 60 (CD60), 80 (CD80) and 100 (CD100) cm and two salinity levels of irrigation water, i.e., 4 (EC4) and 8 (EC8) dS/m were used in a complete randomized design with three replications. Soil water content and soil salinity were measured in soil profile and compared with the predicted values by the SALTMED and HYDRUS-1D models. Calibrations of the SALTMED and HYDRUS-1D models were carried out using the measured data under EC4-CD100 treatment and the data of the other treatments were used for validation. The statistical parameters including normalized root mean square error (NRMSE) and degree of agreement (d) showed that the values for predicting soil water content and soil salinity were more accurate in the HYDRUS-1D model than in the SALTMED model. The NRMSE and d values of the HYDRUS-1D model were 9.6% and 0.64 for the predicted soil water content and 6.2% and 0.98 for the predicted soil salinity, respectively. These indices of the SALTMED model were 10.6% and 0.81 for the predicted soil water content and 11.0% and 0.97 for the predicted soil salinity, respectively. According to the NRMSE and d values for the predicted wheat yield (9.8% and 0.91, respectively) and dry matter (2.9% and 0.99, respectively), we concluded that the SALTMED model predicted the wheat yield and dry matter accurately.
Shrubby seablite or lani (Suaeda fruticosa Forssk) is a perennial euhalophyte with succulent leaves, which could be planted on arid-saline lands for restoration and cultivated as a non-conventional edible or cash crop. Knowledge about the impacts of maternal saline environment on seed attributes of this important euhalophyte is lacking. This study investigated the effects of maternal salinity on yield, size and stress tolerance of S. fruticosa seeds. Seedlings of S. fruticosa were grown in a green net house under increasing maternal salinity levels (0, 300, 600 and 900 mM NaCl) until seed production. Total yield, size, stress tolerance and germination of the descended seeds under different maternal saline conditions were examined. Plants grown under saline conditions (300, 600 and 900 mM NaCl) produce a substantially higher quantity of seeds than plants grown under non-saline condition (0 mM NaCl). Low maternal salinity (300 mM NaCl) improves seed size. Seeds produced under all maternal salinity levels display a higher tolerance to low temperature (night/day thermoperiod of 10°C/20°C), whereas seeds produced under 300 mM NaCl maternal saline condition show a better tolerance to high temperature (night/day thermoperiod of 25°C/35°C) during germination. Seeds from all maternal saline conditions germinate better in the 12 h photoperiod (12 h light/12 h dark) than in the dark (24 h dark); however, seeds produced from low and moderate maternal saline conditions (300 and 600 mM NaCl) show a higher germination in the dark than those from control and high maternal saline conditions (0 and 900 mM NaCl). In general, maternal salinity is found to improve yield, size and stress tolerance of S. fruticosa seeds.
Overgrazing is regarded as one of the key factors of vegetation and soil degradation in the arid and semi-arid regions of Northwest China. Grazing exclusion (GE) is one of the most common pathways used to restore degraded grasslands and to improve their ecosystem services. Nevertheless, there are still significant controversies concerning GE's effects on grassland diversity as well as carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) storage. It remains poorly understood in the arid desert regions, whilst being essential for the sustainable use of grassland resources. To assess the effects of GE on community characteristics and C and N storage of desert plant community in the arid desert regions, we investigated the community structure and plant biomass, as well as C and N storage of plants and soil (0-100 cm depth) in short-term GE (three years) plots and adjacent long-term freely grazing (FG) plots in the areas of sagebrush desert in Northwest China, which are important both for spring-autumn seasonal pasture and for ecological conservation. Our findings indicated that GE was beneficial to the average height, coverage and aboveground biomass (including stems, leaves and inflorescences, and litter) of desert plant community, to the species richness and importance values of subshrubs and perennial herbs, and to the biomass C and N storage of aboveground parts (P<0.05). However, GE was not beneficial to the importance values of annual herbs, root/shoot ratio and total N concentration in the 0-5 and 5-10 cm soil layers (P<0.05). Additionally, the plant density, belowground biomass, and soil organic C concentration and C storage in the 0-100 cm soil layer could not be significantly changed by short-term GE (three years). The results suggest that, although GE was not beneficial for C sequestration in the sagebrush desert ecosystem, it is an effective strategy for improving productivity, diversity, and C and N storage of plants. As a result, GE can be used to rehabilitate degraded grasslands in the arid desert regions of Northwest China.
The spatial pattern of meteorological factors cannot be accurately simulated by using observations from meteorological stations (OMS) that are distributed sparsely in complex terrain. It is expected that the spatial-temporal characteristics of drought in regions with complex terrain can be better represented by meteorological data with the high spatial-temporal resolution and accuracy. In this study, Standard Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) calculated with meteorological factors extracted from ITPCAS (China Meteorological Forcing Dataset produced by the Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences) was applied to identify the spatial-temporal characteristics of drought in Shaanxi Province of China, during the period of 1979-2016. Drought areas detected by SPEI calculated with data from ITPCAS (SPEI-ITPCAS) on the seasonal scale were validated by historical drought records from the Chinese Meteorological Disaster Canon-Shaanxi, and compared with drought areas detected by SPEI calculated with data from OMS (SPEI-OMS). Drought intensity, trend and temporal ranges for mutations of SPEI-ITPCAS were analyzed by using the cumulative drought intensity (CDI) index and the Mann-Kendall test. The results indicated that drought areas detected from SPEI-ITPCAS were closer to the historical drought records than those detected from SPEI-OMS. Severe and exceptional drought events with SPEI-ITPCAS lower than -1.0 occurred most frequently in summer, followed by spring. There was a general drying trend in spring and summer in Shaanxi Province and a significant wetting trend in autumn and winter in northern Shaanxi Province. On seasonal and annual scales, the regional and temporal ranges for mutations of SPEI-ITPCAS were different and most mutations occurred before the year 1990 in most regions of Shaanxi Province. The results reflect the response of different regions of Shaanxi Province to climate change, which will help to manage regional water resources.
Disturbance by rodents alters the morphologies and nutrients of plants as well as the physical-chemical properties of the soils. Changes in plants are considered to be mechanisms of defense against the disturbance by rodents. Rodents gnaw on the assimilating branches of Haloxylon ammodendron (CA Mey.) Bunge and burrow under the bushes in the desert ecosystems of Xinjiang, China. However, eco-physiological responses of different age groups of H. ammodendron to the disturbance by rodents are not well understood. In this study, soil physical-chemical properties under the shrubs and the above-ground morphological, physiological and biochemical features of assimilating branches of H. ammodendron of different age groups (i.e., young, 30-100 cm; middle-aged, 100-200 cm; and mature, >200 cm) in burrowed and non-burrowed (control) areas were studied in 2018. We found that disturbance by rodents significantly increased the crown width and total branching rates of young and middle-aged H. ammodendron. Photosynthetic pigment contents of assimilating branches of H. ammodendron were significantly reduced under the disturbance by rodents. In term of plant nutrients, the main differences among different age groups of H. ammodendron under the disturbance by rodents occurred in the total soluble sugar and reducing sugar contents that decreased in young plants, increased in middle-aged plants, and did not affect in mature plants. Crude protein and phosphorus contents significantly increased, while crude fiber and calcium contents significantly decreased in young plants. Crude fat and calcium contents significantly decreased in middle-aged plants. Soil organic matter (SOM), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (AN) and available potassium (AK) contents in the topsoil (0-20 cm), which are conducive to forming ''fertile islands'', also increased under the disturbance by rodents. In particular, soil AN and AK were the major factors affecting the above-ground morphological characteristics of H. ammodendron in burrowed areas. Overall, the response and defense strategies of H. ammodendron to the disturbance by rodents differed among different age groups, and the effect of the disturbance by rodents on H. ammodendron gradually weakened with the increasing plant age.
Drylands under pastoral land use are considered one of the most vulnerable social-ecological systems to global climate change, but the herders' abilities to adapt to the different extreme weather events have received little attention in the drylands. Herders on the Mongolian Plateau (MP; including Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of China and Mongolia), have had a long history of adapting climatic variability and extreme weather events. However, it is unclear how changes such as increased levels of infrastructure and market integration affect the ability of herders to achieve the key livelihood objectives: the minimisation of the death and abortion rates of livestock in the winter. Here, we used remotely sensed and household survey data to map, model and explore the climate exposure and sensitivity of herders in the settled area (Inner Mongolia of China) and nomadic area (Mongolia) in the winter of 2012-2013. We aimed to quantify the multi-scaled characteristics of both climate exposure and sensitivity through the lens of key adaptive strategies utilized by herders. Our results showed that the higher levels of infrastructure and market integration, and the lower levels of remoteness on the MP did not increase the herders' ability to achieve the key livelihood objectives. Our results also suggested that exposure to the snow that is comparatively greater than the long-term average (cumulative exposure) may be more important in determining the social-ecological vulnerability than absolute exposure. We suggested that neither the risk management strategies available to these herders, nor the demographic variables, could compensate for the mode of production governing the pastoral systems. Our study could provide further evidence for the complex and scaled nature of climate exposure and sensitivity, and the results imply that any analysis of the relationship among exposure, sensitivity and vulnerability of pastoral households to climate change in the drylands will require a multi-scaled and interdisciplinary approach.