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03 September 2012, Volume 4 Issue 3 Previous Issue    Next Issue
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Research Articles
Pleniglacial millennium-scale climate variations in northern China based on records from the Salawusu River Valley
FengNian WANG, BaoSheng LI, JiangLong WANG, XiaoHao WEN, DongFeng NIU, ZhiWen LI, YueJun SI, YiHua GUO, ShuHuan DU
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 231-240.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00231
Abstract ( 2351 )     PDF (855KB) ( 2603 )  
Situated in the Salawusu River Valley, southeast of China’s Mu Us Desert, the MGS2 (Milanggouwan section) portion of the Milanggouwan stratigraphic section records 5.5 sedimentary cycles consisting of alternations between dune sand deposits and fluvial or lacustrine facies. We analyzed the grain-size and CaCO3 distributions in MGS2, and found that Mz (mean particle diameter) and σ (standard deviation) displayed clear variations in peaks and valleys within different sedimentary facies. The CaCO3 content averaged 0.4% in the dune sand deposits, 1.43% in the fluvial facies, and 8.82% in the lacustrine facies. Both the grain-size distribution and CaCO3 contents, which equal the indicators for the alternation among the sedimentary facies, suggest the occurrence of 5.5 cycles. These results suggest that the observed cycles mainly resulted from fluctuations between a cold and dry winter monsoon climate and a warm and humid summer monsoon climate, and that the MGS2 portion experienced at least 5.5 fluctuations between these two extremes. This high-frequency climatic fluctuation indicates a strong influence of millennium-scale variations in the strength of the East Asian winter and summer monsoons in our study area during the Pleniglacial.
The impact of land use change on soil organic carbon and labile organic carbon stocks in the Longzhong region of Loess Plateau
LiHua ZHANG, ZhongKui XIE, RuiFeng ZHAO, YaJun WANG
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 241-250.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00241
Abstract ( 3773 )     PDF (4241KB) ( 6916 )  
Land use change (LUC) is widely recognized as one of the most important driving forces of global carbon cycles. The soil organic carbon (SOC) and labile organic carbon (LOC) stores were investigated at arable land (AL), artificial grassland (AG), artificial woodland (AW), abandoned arable land (AAL) and desert steppe (DS) in the Longzhong region of the Loess Plateau in Northwest China. The results showed that conversions from DS to AL, AL to AG and AL to AAL led to an increase in SOC content, while the conversion from DS to AW led to a decline. The differences in SOC content were significant between DS and AW at the 20–40 cm depth and between AL and AG at the 0–10 cm depth. The SOC stock in DS at the 0–100 cm depth was 39.4 t/hm2, increased by 28.48% after cultivation and decreased by 19.12% after conversion to AW. The SOC stocks increased by 2.11% from AL to AG and 5.10% from AL to AAL. The LOC stocks changed by a larger magnitude than the SOC stocks, which suggests that it is a more sensitive index of carbon dynamics under a short-term LUC. The LOC stocks increased at 0–20 cm and 0–100 cm depths from DS to AW, which is opposite to that observed for SOC. The proportion of LOC to SOC ranged from 0.14 to 0.20 at the 0–20 cm depth for all the five land use types, indicating low SOC dynamics. The allocation proportion of LOC increased for four types of LUC conversion, and the change in magnitude was largest for DS to AW (40.91%). The afforestation, abandonment and forage planting on arable land led to sequestration of SOC; the carbon was lost initially after afforestation. However, the carbon sink effect after abandonment may not be sustainable in the study area.
The effect of total carbon on microscopic soil properties and implications for crop production
Inma LEBRON, Milton Earl MCGIFFEN Jr, Donald Louis SUAREZ
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 251-259.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00251
Abstract ( 2419 )     PDF (2262KB) ( 3559 )  
Soil structure is a dynamic property affected by physical, chemical, and microbiological processes. Addition of organic matter to soils and the use of different management practices have been reported to impact soil structure and crop production. Moderation in soil temperature and increases in microbial activity and soil water retention are often suggested as reasons for the rise in crop yield when organic matter is added to the soil. Less is known about the direct effect of changes in soil structure on crop production. A field experiment was conducted to study the effect of summer cover crop and in-season management system on soil structure. The experiment was a nested design with summer cover crop as the main plot and management system as the subplot. Summer cover crop treatments included cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) incorporated into the soil in the fall (CI), cowpea used as mulch in the fall (CM), sudangrass (Sorghum vulgare) incorporated into the soil in the fall (S), and dry fallow or bare ground (B). Management systems were organic (ORG) and conventional (CNV) systems. Lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) and cantaloupes (Cucumis melo L.) were cultivated in rotation in the plots for three consecutive years using the same cover crops and management systems for each plot. Disturbed and undisturbed soil cores were collected at the end of the third year and used for laboratory experiments to measure physical, chemical, and hydraulic properties. Image analysis was used to quantify soil structure properties using a scanning electron microscope on thin sections prepared from the undisturbed soil cores. We found that total soil carbon was corre-lated with porosity, saturation percentage, and pore roughness. Pore roughness was correlated with crop production in general and with marketable production in particular. We found that the higher the complexity of the pore space, the more water retained in the soil, which may increase soil water residence and reduce plant water stress.
Trends and abrupt changes in surface vapor content over Tarim Basin during the last 50 years
HongJun LI, WeiYi MAO, Yong ZHAO, MinZhong WANG, Wen HUO
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 260-270.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00260
Abstract ( 2553 )     PDF (793KB) ( 2222 )  
The surface vapor content has a close correlation with the generation of precipitation. Based on the atmospheric circulation data and surface vapor content data from 37 weather stations across the Tarim Basin during 1961−2010, the paper analyzed the vapor variation trend, period, abrupt changes and their causes. The results show that the increase trend of surface vapor content over the Tarim Basin mostly conforms with the average trend coefficient of 0.48. There were 3 centers displaying a trend of high vapor increase and 3 centers displaying a low vapor increase. These centers were distributed in strips and blocks across the basin from northeast to southwest. Notable inter-decadal variations in annual and seasonal vapor contents occurred in the Tarim Basin during the 50 years of the study period, with more vapor after the mid-1980s and less vapor in the 1960s and the 1970s. The significant increase in vapor content in the 50 year period occurred mostly in the 1980s and the 1990s. The increasing trend across the four seasons was strongest in summer, reaching 0.43, and weakest in spring. Great variations existed between the spring trend and the annual, summer, autumn and winter trends. During the 50-year study period, there are distinguishable periods of 4–6 years and 8–10 years in which the annual and sea-sonal vapor contents varied alternately between low and high concentrations. The annual vapor content and that of the four individual seasons all changed abruptly in about the mid-1980s (α<0.05). The west wind circulation, Tibetan Plateau circulation and the annual mean temperatures of the Tarim Basin are the main factors that influenced the surface vapor content over the study area, of which the Tibetan Plateau circulation may be the most important one.
Surface runoff processes and sustainable utilization of water resources in Manas River Basin, Xinjiang, China
HongBo LING, HaiLiang XU, JinYi FU, XinHua LIU
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 271-280.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00271
Abstract ( 3234 )     PDF (655KB) ( 2444 )  
Water is the important resource to guarantee the existence and development of oases in arid areas. To improve the utilization efficiency of water resources in Manas River Basin, this paper investigated the trends and periods of runoff based on the runoff and climate data for the past 50 years. Subsequently, with the socioeconomic and water resources data, we studied a comprehensive evaluation on the water security in this area. The results indicated that the stream flows in the three hydrological stations of Hongshanzui, Kensiwat and Bajiahu have significantly increased and undergone abrupt changes, with periods of 18 and 20 years. According to assessment, water security in the Manas River Basin was at an unsafe level in 2008. In criterion layer, the ecological security index and the index of supply-demand situation are both at the relatively secure level; the quantity index and socioeconomic index of water resources are at the unsafe level and basic security level, respectively. Therefore, in order to achieve sustainable economic and social development within the Manas River Basin, it is vital to take a series of effective measures to improve the status of water security.
Physiological responses of Populus euphratica Oliv. to groundwater table variations in the lower reaches of Heihe River, Northwest China
Yang ZHAO, ChuanYan ZHAO, ZhongLin XU, YiYue LIU, Yao WANG, Chao WANG, HuanHua PENG, XiangLin ZHENG
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 281-291.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00281
Abstract ( 3013 )     PDF (15291KB) ( 1876 )  
Riparian vegetation in the lower reaches of Heihe River serves important ecological functions. However, the riparian ecosystems have been constantly deteriorating in the past 30 years simply due to water interception for oasis agricultural irrigation in the middle reaches of the river. This study pays a particular attention to Populus euphratica Oliv. forest because it is a dominant component of the riparian ecosystem in the lower reaches of Heihe River where the depth of groundwater table is the controlling factor in sustaining riparian ecosystems. To reveal leaf-related physiological responses of Populus euphratica Oliv. forest to groundwater table variations, we analyzed the relationships between the depth of groundwater table (DG) and three leaf-related parameters, i.e. leaf stomatal density (SD), specific leaf area (SLA), and stable carbon isotopic composition (δ13C). Our results show that the relationship between DG and leaf SD is a bi-mode one shaped by both salt stress and water stress. That is, salt stress appeared in shallow groundwater conditions and water stress happened in deep groundwater conditions, and the thin layer around 2.7 m of DG is a stress-free layer. Leaf SD fluctuated according to the DG variation, first decreased with increasing DG, then increased at depths ranging 2.7–3.7 m, and after a relatively stable plateau of SD at depths ranging 3.7–5.2 m, decreased again with increasing DG. Our results also show that SLA decreased exponentially with increasing DG and foliar δ13C values are also strongly dependent on DG, further demonstrating that these two parameters are sensitive indicators of water stress. The exponential curve suggests that SLA is more sensitive to DG when groundwater table is shallow and 3 m seems to be a threshold beyond which SLA becomes less sensitive to DG. Foliar δ13C becomes more sensitive when the groundwater table is deep and 7 m seems to be a threshold below which the δ13C signature becomes more sensitive to DG. These findings should be helpful in monitoring the growth and development of Populus euphratica Oliv. forests and also in providing protection measures (i.e. DG related) for Heihe River riparian forests.
The effect of water spreading system on the functionality of rangeland ecosystems
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 292-299.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00292
Abstract ( 2633 )     PDF (4454KB) ( 3137 )  
In recent decades, the control of floods is an efficient management practice for the rehabilitation of rangelands in most arid and semiarid areas. To evaluate the benefits, we used the Landscape Function Analysis (LFA) method to assess the function of patches and qualitative capability of a rangeland ecosystem in Gareh Bygone region, Fars province, southwestern Iran. Landscape functionality depends on soil, water and nutrient (collectively called “resources”) conservation and use within a given ecosystem. Many landscapes are naturally heterogeneous in terms of resource control and possess patches, where resources tend to accumulate, and inter-patches. Assessing rangeland health and function of landscape patches in response to environment and management can give rise to correct management decisions for qualitative improvement of the ecosystem. There-fore, our study area was divided into two parts, i.e. water spreading and control parts, and sampling was done using LFA method in each part separately. Structural parameters, including the number, length and width of patches, and the mean length of inter-patches, were determined by the method to characterize the functional status of the monitoring sites. For each patch/inter-patch type identified in the transect organization log, we recorded its soil surface properties classified according to the Soil Surface Assessment Method. The density, canopy cover and composition of plants were then assessed. The results showed that the number of ecological patches and their dimensions were significantly increased in the water spreading site. Soil stability and the values of nutrient cycling indices were increased but the infiltration values were decreased in the water spreading site. It could be related to the effect of suspended materials transported by floods to the soils in the study area. The improvement of ecological patches and rangeland ecosystem was achieved where water spreading systems were practiced. Therefore it can be concluded that water spreading as a management plan plays an important role in arid land ecosystem func-tionality.
Simulating the vegetation-producing process in small watersheds in the Loess Plateau of China
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 300-309.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00300
Abstract ( 3316 )     PDF (1908KB) ( 3033 )  
Small watersheds are the basic composition unit of the Loess Plateau in China. An accurate estimation of vegetation net primary productivity (NPP) is of great significance for eco-benefit evaluation in small watershed management in this region. Here we describe the development and testing of a vegetation-producing process model (VPP) of a small watershed in the Loess Plateau. The model couples three modules: radiation adjustment; soil hydrological processes; and vegetation carbon assimilation. Model validation indicates that the VPP model can be used to estimate the NPP of small watersheds in the region. With the VPP model, we estimated the spatial NPP distributions in the Yangou watershed for 2007. The results show that in the Yangou watershed the NPP is relatively low, averaging 168 g C/(m2•a). Trees and shrubs have a higher NPP than crops and grasses. The NPP is larger on the partly shaded and shaded slopes than on the partly sunny and sunny slopes. The NPP on the slopes increases gradually on 0–20° slopes and decreases slightly on slopes steeper than 20°. Our simulation indicates that the vegetation type is the most important factor in determining the NPP distribution in small watersheds in the Loess Plateau.
Measuring cotton water status using water-related vegetation indices at leaf and canopy levels
QiuXiang YI, AnMing BAO, Yi LUO, Jin ZHAO
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 310-319.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00310
Abstract ( 3241 )     PDF (599KB) ( 2951 )  
Drought is one of the major environmental threats in the world. In recent years, the damage from droughts to the environment and economies of some countries has been extensive, and drought monitoring has caused widespread concerns. Remote sensing has a proven ability to provide spatial and temporal measurements of surface properties, and it offers an opportunity for the quantitative assessment of drought indicators such as the vegetation water content at different levels. In this study, sites of cotton field in Shihezi, Xinjiang, Northwest China were sampled. Four classical water content parameters, namely the leaf equivalent water thickness (EWTleaf), the fuel moisture content (FMC), the canopy equivalent water thickness (EWTcanopy) and vegetation water content (VWC) were evaluated against seven widely-used water-related vegetation indices, namely the NDII (normalized difference infrared index), NDWI2130 (normalized difference water index), NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index), MSI (moisture stress index), SRWI (simple ratio water index), NDWI1240 (normalized difference water index) and WI (water index), respectively. The results proved that the relationships between the water-related vegetation indices and EWTleaf were much better than that with FMC, and the relationships between vegetation indices and EWTcanopy were better than that with VWC. Furthermore, comparing the significance of all seven water-related vegetation indices, WI and NDII proved to be the best candidates for EWT detecting at leaf and canopy levels, with R2 of 0.262 and 0.306 for EWTleaf-WI and EWTcanopy-NDII linear models, respectively. Besides, the prediction power of linear regression technique (LR) and artificial neural network (ANN) were compared using calibration and validation dataset, respectively. The results indicated that the performance of ANN as a predictive tool for water status measuring was as good as LR. The study should further our understanding of the relationships between water-related vegetation indices and water parameters.
The fate of fertilizer N applied to cotton in relation to irrigation methods and N dosage in arid area
ChangZhou WEI, TengFei MA, XiaoJuan WANG, Juan WANG
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 320-329.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00320
Abstract ( 3245 )     PDF (428KB) ( 2614 )  
Quantitative information on the fate and efficiency of nitrogen (N) fertilizer applied to coarse textured calcareous soils in arid farming systems is scarce but, as systems intensify, is essential to support sustainable agronomic management decisions. A mesh house study was undertaken to trace the fate of N fertilizer applied to cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L. cv., Huiyuan701) growing on a reconstructed profile (0–100 cm) of a calcareous (>15% CaCO3) sandy loam soil. Two irrigation methods (drip irrigation, DI; and furrow irrigation, FI) and four N application rates (0, 240, 360 and 480 kg/hm2, abbreviated as N0, N240, N360, and N480, respectively) were applied. 15N-labelled urea fertilizer was applied in a split application. DI enhanced the biomass of whole plant and all parts of the plant, except for root; more fertilizer N was taken up and mostly stored in vegetative parts; N utilization efficiency (NUE) was significantly greater than in FI. N utilization efficiency (NUE) decreased from 52.59% in N240 to 36.44% in N480. N residue in soil and plant N uptake increased with increased N dosage, but recovery rate decreased consistently both in DI and FI. Plant N uptake and soil N residue were greater in DI than in FI. N residue mainly stayed within 0–40 cm depth in DI but within 40–80 cm depth in FI. FI showed 17.89% of N leached out, but no N leaching occurred in DI. N recovery rate in the soil-plant system was 75.82% in DI, which was markedly greater than the 55.97% in FI. DI exhibited greater NUE, greater residual N in the soil profile and therefore greater N recovery rate than in FI; also, N distribution in soil profile shallowed in DI, resulting in a reduced risk of N leaching compared to FI; and enhanced shoot growth and reduced root growth in DI is beneficial for more economic yield formation. Compared to furrow irrigation, drip irrigation is an irrigation method where N movement favors the prevention of N from being lost in the plant-soil system and benefits a more efficient use of N.
Root growth and spatio-temporal distribution of three common annual halophytes in a saline desert, northern Xinjiang
Ke ZHANG, ChangYan TIAN, ChunJian LI
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 330-341.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00330
Abstract ( 2868 )     PDF (2950KB) ( 2762 )  
Root growth and spatial and temporal distribution in the 0–100 cm soil profiles of three common annual halophytes Salsola subcrassa, Suaeda acuminate and Petrosimonia sibirica distributed in a saline desert in northern Xinjiang, China were studied in 2009 and 2010. The results showed that the root systems of the three halophytes were of the taproot type, vertically distributed in the 90-cm soil profile, and were deepest in late July. Their taproots reached maximum depth rapidly, early in the growth period, but with rare lateral roots. They were then dug out in an orderly way, from bottom to top, exhibiting vertical development first and then horizontal devel-opment. The distribution of specific root length, which reflects the characteristics of the feeder root, was gradually increased from top to bottom, whereas root weight displayed an opposite distribution pattern. The root length dis-tribution of the three halophytes was concentrated (62% to 76%) in the middle soil profile (20–60 cm), with less distribution in the surface (0–20 cm) and bottom (60–90 cm) soil profiles. The results indicated that the roots of the three annual halophytes grew rapidly into the deeper soil layer after germination, which ensured the plant survival and uptake of water and nutrition, and thus built up a strong tolerance to an arid, high-salt environment.
Effects of parasitic plant Cistanche deserticola on chlorophyll a fluorescence and nutrient accumulation of host plant Haloxylon ammodendron in the Taklimakan Desert
Li LI, XinWen XU, YongQiang SU, Wei HAN, PengFei TU
Journal of Arid Land. 2012, 4 (3): 342-348.   DOI: 10.3724/SP.J.1227.2012.00342
Abstract ( 3724 )     PDF (468KB) ( 3288 )  
The parasitic plant Cistanche deserticola attaches to Haloxylon ammodendron, a perennial shrub with high tolerance to salinity and drought. However, little was known about the parasite-host relation between the two species. Effects of the parasite on chlorophyll a fluorescence and nutrient accumulation in the host plant (H. ammodendron) were investigated in the Taklimakan Desert. Some photosynthetic parameters of both host and non-host H. ammodendron plants were measured by in vivo chlorophyll a fluorescence technology in the field. The assimilating branches of host and non-host plants were collected and nutrient and inorganic ion contents were analyzed. The results from field experiments showed that the infection of C. deserticola reduced the non-photochemical quenching of the variable chlorophyll fluorescence (NPQ) and the potential maximum quantum yield for primary photochemistry (Fv/Fm) of the host. Compared with non-host plants, the host H. ammodendron had low nutrient, low inorganic ion contents (Na+ and K+) and low K+/Na+ ratios in the assimilating branches. It suggested that C. deserticola infection reduced the nutrient acquisition and caused damage to the photoprotection through thermal dissipation of the energy of the photosystem II in the host, resulting in a decrease in the tolerance to salinity and high radiation. It was concluded that the attachment of the parasite plant (C. deserticola) had negative effects on the growth of its host.