Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1532–1545 | Cite as

Variable hydrological effects of herbs and shrubs in the arid northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China

  • Ya-bin Liu
  • Ying Zhang
  • Jiang-tao Fu
  • Dong-mei Yu
  • Xia-song HuEmail author
  • Xi-lai Li
  • Zhao-xin Qi
  • Shu-xia Li


This study aims to assess the hydrological effects of four herbs and four shrubs planted in a selfestablished test area in Xining Basin of northeastern Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China. The Rainfall-Intercepting Capability (RIC) of the herbs and shrubs was evaluated in rainfall interception experiment at the end of the third, fourth and fifth month of the growth period in 2007. The leaf transpiration rate and the effects of roots on promoting soil moisture evaporation in these plants were also assessed in transpiration experiment and root-soil composite system evaporation experiment in the five month’s growth period. It is found that the RIC of the four studied herbs follows the order of E. repens, E. dahuricus, A. trachycaulum and L. secalinus; the RIC of the four shrubs follows the order of A. canescens, Z. xanthoxylon, C. korshinskii and N. tangutorum. The RIC of all the herbs is related linearly to their mean height and canopy area (R2 ≥ 0.9160). The RIC of all the shrubs bears a logarithmic relationship with their mean height (R2 ≥ 0.9164), but a linear one with their canopy area (R2 ≥ 0.9356). Moreover, different species show different transpiration rates. Of the four herbs, E. repens has the highest transpiration rate of 1.07 mg/(m2·s), and of the four shrubs, A. canescens has the highest transpiration rate (0.74 mg/(m2·s)). The roots of all the herbs and shrubs can promote soil moisture evaporation. Of the four herbs, the evaporation rate of E. repens root-soil composite system is the highest (2.14%), and of the four shrubs, the root-soil composite system of A. canescens has the highest evaporation rate (1.41%). The evaporation rate of the root-soil composite system of E. dahuricus and Z. xanthoxylon bears a second-power linear relationship with evaporation time (R2 ≥ 0.9924). The moisture content of all the eight root-soil composite systems decreases exponentially with evaporation time (R2 ≥ 0.8434). The evaporation rate and moisture content of all the plants’ root-soil composite systems increases logarithmically (R2 ≥ 0.9606) and linearly (R2 ≥ 0.9777) with root volume density. The findings of this study indicate that among the four herbs and four shrubs, E. repens and A. canescens possess the most effective hydrological effects in reducing the soil erosion and shallow landslide in this region.


Plant hydrological effects Rainfall interception capacity Root-soil composite system Transpiration rate Moisture evaporation rate Qinghai-Tibet Plateau 


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The project has been financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41572306, 41162010), Natural Science Foundation of Qinghai Province (Grant No.2014-ZJ-906), and Hundred Talents Program in Chinese Academy of Sciences (Grant No. Y110091025), Scientific and Technologic Support Plan of Qinghai Province (2015-SF-117), and Ministry of Education ‘Innovative Team Development Scheme’ (IRT_17R62). The authors are grateful for Gary Brierley from School of Environmental Science, the University of Auckland for guidance on how to reply to the reviewers’ comments. The authors also extend their thanks to colleagues at Qinghai University: Professors Duan Xiaoming, Sheng Haiyan, Associate Professors Mao Xiaoqing, Ni Sanchuan, Zhu Haili, Li Guorong, and graduate students Qiao Na, Yu Qinqin. We thank three anonymous reviewers for providing helpful comments on how to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Comprehensive and Highly Efficient Utilization of Salt Lake Resources, Qinghai Institute of Salt LakesChinese Academy of SciencesXiningChina
  2. 2.Qinghai Provincial Key Laboratory of Geology and Environment of Salt LakesXiningChina
  3. 3.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  4. 4.Department of Geological EngineeringQinghai UniversityXiningChina
  5. 5.College of Agriculture and Animal HusbandryQinghai UniversityXiningChina

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