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Different Effects of Spring and Summer Droughts on Ecosystem Carbon and Water Exchanges in a Semiarid Shrubland Ecosystem in Northwest China

  • Peng Liu
  • Tianshan ZhaEmail author
  • Xin Jia
  • T. Andrew Black
  • Rachhpal S. Jassal
  • Jingyong Ma
  • Yujie Bai
  • Yajuan Wu


Extensive revegetation and conservation programs have been initiated in semiarid desert areas in northern China for over 10 years. However, our knowledge on how drought affects the desert ecosystem carbon (C) and water exchanges is limited. Based on eddy covariance measurements, we evaluated the effect of spring and summer droughts on ecosystem C and water exchanges over a semiarid Artemisia ordosica shrubland in Northwest China for 2014–2016. Over the 3 years, the ecosystem was a weak source of C (40 ± 32 g C m−2 y−1) (mean ± standard deviation) with evapotranspiration (ET) of 310 ± 65 mm y−1. Annual net ecosystem production was − 76, − 25 and − 18 g C m−2 y−1 and water use efficiency (WUE) [gross ecosystem production (GEP)/ET] was 0.92, 1.14 and 1.09 g C kg−1 H2O in 2014, 2015 and 2016, respectively, indicating greater C loss and suppressed WUE in 2014. We found that GEP, Re and ET were significantly suppressed in year 2014 when a severe spring drought occurred, as compared to the year 2016 with summer droughts. The differences in C and water fluxes between years 2014 and 2016 were greater than those between years 2015 and 2016, although the ecosystem suffered a severe summer drought in 2015. Interannual differences in GEP were likely due to differences in leaf area index and canopy conductance, both of which were decreased by drought. Our results indicated that spring drought appears to be more critical to the C balance than summer drought in this semiarid shrubland. This suggested that under future climate change with more variable precipitation and frequent droughts expected in northern China, the timing of drought may be critical to the C and water balances.


drought carbon flux water use efficiency gross ecosystem production net ecosystem production ecosystem respiration 



The research work has been supported by grants from the National Natural Science Foundation of China (NSFC: 31670710, 31670708), by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (No. 2016YFC0500905) and by the Fundamental Research Funds for the Central Universities (No. 2015ZCQ-SB-02). The U.S.–China Carbon Consortium (USCCC) supported this work by providing opportunity for instructive discussions and exchange of ideas. We also thank Cai Ren, Jiawei Mu, Ziqi Wang and Cai Zhang for their assistance with field measurements and instrument maintenance. The data analyzed in this manuscript are available through and can also through e-mail request to the corresponding author Tianshan Zha (


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peng Liu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tianshan Zha
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Xin Jia
    • 1
    • 2
  • T. Andrew Black
    • 3
  • Rachhpal S. Jassal
    • 3
  • Jingyong Ma
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yujie Bai
    • 1
    • 2
  • Yajuan Wu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Yanchi Research Station, School of Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of State Forestry Administration on Soil and Water ConservationBeijing Forestry UniversityBeijingChina
  3. 3.Biometeorology and Soil Physics GroupUniversity of BCVancouverCanada

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