Stoichiometric features of C, N, and P in soil and litter of Tamarix cones and their relationship with environmental factors in the Taklimakan Desert, China

  • Zhengwu Dong
  • Congjuan LiEmail author
  • Shengyu LiEmail author
  • Jiaqiang Lei
  • Ying Zhao
  • Halik Umut
Soils, Sec 1 • Soil Organic Matter Dynamics and Nutrient Cycling • Research Article



The main objectives of this study were to explore the soil and litter carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) stoichiometric features in the Tamarix cones across the Taklimakan Desert, China, and also to verify the relationships between soil C, N, and P stoichiometry and environmental factors, with the ultimate aim of finding out the driving factors for the stoichiometric characteristics of desert soils.

Materials and methods

The soils under Tamarix cones, from the surface to a depth of 500 cm, were sampled in four typical Tamarix habitats (at Qiemo, Qira, Aral, Tazhong) of the Tamarix cones along the periphery and in the hinterland of the Taklimakan Desert. Soil samples were collected to measure soil properties and the concentrations of soil and litter C, N, and P. Analysis of variance (ANOVA) and distance-based redundancy analysis (db-RDA) were used to analyze the vertical patterns of soil C, N, and P stoichiometry and to identify the critical environmental factors influencing soil stoichiometry.

Results and discussion

Soil and litter C and N concentrations decreased with increasing soil depth throughout the profiles, while P concentrations showed no significant differences with depth. Soil C and N concentration, C/P ratios, and N/P ratios were significantly higher at the saline desert site (Qiemo) than at the other sites. Soil C and N were negatively correlated with litter C, N, and P within the 0–500-cm layer. In contrast, soil P was not significantly influenced by litter composition as it is primarily derived from the parent material at the soil bottom. In addition, environmental factors explained > 98% and 68.6% of the total variance of soil and litter stoichiometry, respectively. The results also indicated that, at all sites, the impacts of environmental factors on soil stoichiometry were mainly caused by the soil litter content, silt, sand, and soil water contents. However, at Qiemo, soil stoichiometry was also affected by the clay content, and at Aral and Tazhong, the pH, electrical conductivity, and mean annual temperature also exerted a strong influence on soil stoichiometry.


It could be concluded that the soil properties (such as, soil clay, silt, and sand content) and litter content exert a great influence on the stoichiometry of soil C, N, and P in the Tamarix cones of the Taklimakan Desert. In saline areas, soil salinity (electrical conductivity) and alkalinity (pH) may also influence the soil stoichiometry. In addition, the formation process of Tamarix cones also affects soil stoichiometry. Considering the extremely low precipitation and intensive evaporation in the Taklimakan Desert, this study provides a deep insight into the patterns of soil stoichiometry within extreme arid desert ecosystems.


Desert ecosystem Ecological stoichiometry Environmental factors Tamarix cones 



The authors would like to thank Professor Sujith Ravi’s help for refining the manuscript.

Funding information

This work was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program (2017YFC0506705), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31971731, 41571011, 31700423), Xinjiang Key Research and Development Program (2019B00005), the Thousand Youth Talents Plan Project (Y472241001), and the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017476).

Supplementary material

11368_2019_2481_MOESM1_ESM.doc (350 kb)
ESM 1 (DOC 350 kb)


  1. Adamu GK, Aliyu AK (2012) Determination of the influence of texture and organic matter on soil water holding capacity in and around Tomas Irrigation Scheme, Dambatta, Local Government Kano State. Res J Environ Earth Sci 4:1038–1044Google Scholar
  2. Bao SD (2000) Soil agricultural chemistry analysis (in Chinese). China Agriculture Press, Beijing, pp 152–200Google Scholar
  3. Bing HJ, Wu YH, Zhou J, Sun HY, Luo J, Wang JP, Yu D (2016) Stoichiometric variation of carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in soils and its implication for nutrient limitation in alpine ecosystem of eastern Tibetan Plateau. J Soils Sediments 16(2):405–416CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bradshaw C, Kautsky U, Kumblad L (2012) Ecological stoichiometry and multi-element transfer in a coastal ecosystem. Ecosystems 15:591–603CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Canadell JG, Kirschbaum MUF, Kurz WA, Sanz MJ, Schlamadinger B, Yamagata Y (2007) Factoring out natural and indirect human effects on terrestrial carbon sources and sinks. Environ Sci Pol 10:370–384CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Cao Y, Zhang P, Chen YM (2018) Soil C:N:P stoichiometry in plantations of N-fixing black locust and indigenous pine, and secondary oak forests in Northwest China. J Soils Sediments 18:1478–1489CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Castro H, Fortunel C, Freitas H (2010) Effects of land abandonment on plant litter decomposition in a Montado system: relation to litter chemistry and community functional parameters. Plant Soil 333:181–190CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chai H, Yu GR, He NP, Wen D, Li J, Fang JP (2015) Vertical distribution of soil carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus in typical Chinese terrestrial ecosystems. Chin Geogr Sci 25:549–560CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Chen Y, Chen L, Peng Y, Ding J, Li F, Yang G (2016) Linking microbial C:N:P stoichiometry to microbial community and abiotic factors along a 3500-km grassland transect on the Tibetan plateau. Glob Ecol Biogeogr 25:1416–1427CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Cleveland CC, Liptzin D (2007) C:N:P stoichiometry in soil: is there a Redfield ratio for the microbial biomass? Biogeochemistry 85:235–252CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delgado-Baquerizo M, Eldridge DJ, Maestre FT, Ochoa V, Gozalo B, Reich PB, Singh BK (2017) Aridity decouples C:N:P stoichiometry across multiple trophic levels in terrestrial ecosystems. Ecosystems 21:459–468CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dong ZW, Zhao Y, Lei JQ, Xi YQ (2018) Distribution pattern and influencing factors of soil salinity at Tamarix cones in the Taklimakan Desert. Chin J Plant Ecol 42:873–884 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Elser JJ, Sterner RW, Gorokhova E, Fagan WF, Marknow TA, Cotner JB, Harrison JF, Hobbie SE, Odell GM, Weider LJ (2000) Biological stoichiometry from genes to ecosystems. Ecol Lett 3:540–550CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fan JL, Jin XJ, Lei JQ, Xu XW, Zhou HW (2013) Responses of ground water level to pumping water of the Tarim Desert Highway Shelterbelt Project. Chin Agric Sci Bull 2:114–119 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  15. Feng DF, Bao WK, Pang XY (2017) Consistent profile pattern and spatial variation of soil C/N/P stoichiometric ratios in the subalpine forests. J Soils Sediments 17(8):2054–2065CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Gao RR, Zhao RH, Yang XJ (2009) Effects of salt temperature on early growth of Halocnemum strobilaceum (Chenopodiacese) seedings. Acta Ecol Sin 29:5395–5405 (in Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Gong WH, Wang YG, Gao QZ, Shen YP, Wang SD (2011) Ecological comprehensive monitoring for Aral Station in Tarim River Basin. Arid Land Geogr 5:762–771 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  18. Gong XW, Lü GH, Ma Y, Zhang XN, He XM, Guo ZJ (2017) Ecological stoichiometry characteristics in the soil under crown and leaves of two desert halophytes with soil salinity gradients in Ebinur Lake Basin. Sci Silvae Sin 53(04):28–36 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  19. Gries D, Zeng F, Foetzki A, Arndt SK, Bruelheide H, Thomas FM, Zhang X, Runge M (2003) Growth and water relations of Tamarix amosissima and Populus euphratica on Taklamakan desert dunes in relation to depth to a permanent water table. Plant Cell Environ 26:725–736CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Han H, Wang HB, Yu HG (2015) Ecological stoichiometry of carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus of Phragmites australis population under soil salinity gradients in Chongming Wetlands. Res Environ Yangtze Basin 24(5):816–824 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  21. He MZ, Dijkstra FA (2014) Drought effect on plant nitrogen and phosphorus: a meta-analysis. New Phytol 204:924–931CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jobbágy EG, Jackson RB (2001) The distribution of soil nutrients with depth: global patterns and the imprint of plants. Biogeochemistry 53:51–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kahle P, Baum C, Boelcke B, Kohl J, Ulrich R (2010) Vertical distribution of soil properties under short-rotation forestry in Northern Germany. J Plant Nutr Soil Sci 173:737–746CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Li CJ, Li Y, Ma J (2011) Spatial heterogeneity of soil chemical properties at fine scales induced by Haloxylon ammodendron (Chenopodiaceae) plants in a sandy desert. Ecol Res 26(2):385–394CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Li CJ, Lei JQ, Zhao Y (2015) Effect of saline water irrigation on soil development and plant growth in the Takllimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt. Soil Tillage Res 146:99–107CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li CJ, Shi X, Mohamad OA (2017) Moderate irrigation intervals facilitate establishment of two desert shrubs in the Taklimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt in China. PLoS One 12:e0180875. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liu X, Zhang Y, Han W, Tang A, Shen J, Cui Z, Vitousek P, Erisman JW, Goulding K, Christie P, Fangmeier A, Zhang F (2013) Enhanced nitrogen deposition over China. Nature 494:459–462CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu JH, Wang XQ, Ma Y, Tan FZ (2016) Spatial variation of soil salinity on Tamarix ramosissima nebkhas and interdune in oasis-desert ecotone. J Desert Res 36:181–189 (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  29. Liu X, Ma J, Ma ZW, Li LH (2017) Soil nutrient contents and stoichiometry as affected by land-use in an agro-pastoral region of Northwest China. Catena 150:146–153CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Manzoni S, Trofymow JA, Jackson RB, Porporato A (2010) Stoichiometric controls on carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus dynamics in decomposing litter. Ecol Monogr 80:89–106CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. McGroddy ME, Daufresne T, Hedin LO (2004) Scaling of C:N:P stoichiometry in forests worldwide: implications of terrestrial Redfield-type ratios. Ecology 85:2390–2401CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Muhtar Q, Hiroki T, Mijit H (2002) Formation and internal structure of Tamarix cones in the Taklimakan Desert. J Arid Environ 50:81–97CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Redfield AC (1958) The biological control of chemical factors in the environment. Am Sci 46:205–211Google Scholar
  34. Schlesinger WH, Raikes JA, Hartley AE, Cross AF (1996) On the spatial pattern of soil nutrients in desert ecosystems. Ecology 77:364–374CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Sistla SA, Schimel JP (2012) Stoichiometric flexibility as a regulator of carbon and nutrient cycling in terrestrial ecosystems under change. New Phytol 196:68–78CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Sterner RW, Elser JJ (2002) Ecological stoichiometry: the biology of elements from molecules to the biosphere. Princeton University Press, PrincetonGoogle Scholar
  37. Su YZ, Wang XF, Yang R, Lee J (2010) Effects of sandy desertified land rehabilitation on soil carbon sequestration and aggregation in an arid region in China. J Environ Manag 91:2109–2116CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sun JM, Liu TS (2006) The age of the Taklimakan Desert. Science 312:1621CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Sun YW, Xu XW, Li SY (2009) Characteristics of Aeolian Dust along the Tarim Desert highway and its soil hydrological effect. Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, CAS, Urumqi (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  40. Tang Z, An H, Deng L, Wang Y, Zhu G, Shang GZ (2016) Effect of desertification on productivity in a desert steppe. Sci Rep 6:27839CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Tian HQ, Chen GS, Zhang C, Melillo JM, Hall CAS (2010) Pattern and variation of C:N:P ratios in China’s soils: a synthesis of observational data. Biogeochemistry 98:139–151CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Uselman SM, Snyder KA, Blank RR, Jones TJ (2011) UVB exposure does not accelerate rates of litter decomposition in a semi-arid riparian ecosystem. Soil Biol Biochem 43:1254–1265CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Wang SG, Wang JY, Zhou ZJ, Shang KZ (2005) Regional characteristics of three kinds of dust storm events in China. Atmos Environ 39:509–520CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Xia XC, Zhao YJ, Wang FB (2004) Stratification features of Tamarix cone and its possible age significance (in Chinese). Chin Sci Bull 49:1539–1540CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Yang YH, Fang JY, Tang YH, Ji CJ, Zheng CY, He JS, Zhu B (2008) Storage, patterns and controls of soil organic carbon in the Tibetan grasslands. Glob Chang Biol 14:1592–1599CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Yang Y, Liu BR, An SS (2018) Ecological stoichiometry in leaves, roots, litters and soil among different plant communities in a desertified region of Northern China. Catena 166:328–338CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Yin CH, Shi QM, Liang F, Tian CY (2013) Distribution pattern of soil salinity in Tamarix Nebkhas in Tarim Basin (in Chinese). Bull Soil Water Conser 33:287–293Google Scholar
  48. Zechmeister-Boltenstern S, Keiblinger KM, Mooshammer M, Peñuelas J, Richter A, Sardans J, Wanek W (2015) The application of ecological stoichiometry to plant-microbial-soil organic matter transformations. Ecol Monogr 85:133–155CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Zeng FJ, Song C (2013) Responses of root growth of Alhagi sparsifolia Shap. (Fabaceae) to different simulated groundwater depths in the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert, China. J Arid Land 5:220–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Zeng Q, Li X, Dong Y, An S, Darboux F (2016) Soil and plant components ecological stoichiometry in four steppe communities in the Loess Plateau of China. Catena 147:481–488CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Zhang XM, Wang YD, Zhao Y, Xu XW, Lei JQ, Hill RL (2017) Litter decomposition and nutrient dynamics of three woody halophytes in the Taklimakan Desert Highway Shelterbelt. Arid Land Res Manag 31:335–331CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Zhang K, Su YZ, Yang R (2019) Variation of soil organic carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus stoichiometry and biogeographic factors across the desert ecosystem of Hexi Corridor, northwestern China. J Soils Sediments 19:49–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Zhao YJ, Xia XC (2011) Research on the relationship between Tamarix cone and environmental change in Lop Nur Region of Xinjiang. Science Press, Beijing, pp 38–142Google Scholar
  54. Zhao HM, Huang G, Ma J, Li Y, Tang L (2014) Decomposition of aboveground and root litter for three desert herbs: mass loss and dynamics of mineral nutrients. Biol Fertil Soils 50(5):745–753CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhao HM, Huang G, Li Y, Ma J, Sheng JD, Jia HT, Li CJ (2015) Effects of increased summer precipitation and nitrogen addition on root decomposition in a Temperate Desert. PLoS One. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zheng T, Li JG, Li WH, Wan JH (2010) Soil heterogeneity and its effects on plant community in oasis desert transition zone in the lower peaches of Tarim River. J Desert Res 30:128–134Google Scholar
  57. Zohra O, Abdelhakim B, Nadhem B, Mohamed G (2017) Soil property and soil organic carbon pools and stocks of soil under oases in arid regions of Tunisia. Environ Earth Sci 76:415CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis EcologyXinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of SciencesÜrümqiChina
  2. 2.College of Resources and Environment ScienceXinjiang UniversityÜrümqiChina
  3. 3.Taklimakan Desert Research StationXinJiang Institute of Ecology and Geography Chinese Academy of SciencesKoalaChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.College of Resources and Environmental EngineeringLudong UniversityYantaiChina

Personalised recommendations