Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 15, Issue 7, pp 1498–1509 | Cite as

Soil nutrients in relation to vertical roots distribution in the riparian zone of Three Gorges Reservoir, China

  • Rong-hua Zhong
  • Jin-ming Hu
  • Yu-hai Bao
  • Fei Wang
  • Xiu-bin HeEmail author


Since the impoundment of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR), the riparian zone has been subjected to numerous environmental changes. This study was conducted to recognize the distribution of grass roots and its impacts on soil nutrients in the water level fluctuation zone of TGR. Roots of four predominant herbaceous plants in the study area, specifically, Cynodon dactylon, Hemarthria altissima, Hemarthria compressa, and Paspalum paspaloides, and their corresponding relation with soil nutrient contents were investigated. Root surface area density was determined with WinRHIZO, and the relationships of root distribution with soil depths and soil nutrient contents were studied. The results indicates that most roots are distributed in the top soil layer of 0–10 cm. Estimated root surface area density for the selected grass species ranges from 0.16 to 13.44 cm2/cm3, and decreases exponentially with an increase in soil depth. Soil organic matter and total nitrogen contents are significantly lower on bare control area than the corresponding values on the grasslands. Total nutrient contents on grasslands of C. dactylon and H. compressa are higher than those of other grass areas. Root length density and root surface area density are significantly correlated with soil organic matter and total nitrogen content for the four grasslands. The present results suggests that plant roots have significant effects on the distribution of soil nutrients in soil profiles in the riparian zone along the TGR. Nevertheless, additional investigations are needed to reveal the specific interactions between plant roots distribution, soil nutrients and water level fluctuations.


Roots distribution Soil nutrients Water level fluctuations Riparian zone Root surface area density Root length density 


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Financial support for this study was jointly provided by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41601296, 41571278 and 41771321), China Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant No. 2016M592720), Applied Basic Research Foundation of Yunnan Province (Grant No. 2016FD011), and Sichuan Science and Technology Program (2018SZ0132). The authors are thankful to all persons involved in the field investigation and data preparation of this project.


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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.Yunnan Key Laboratory of International Rivers and Transboundary Eco–securityKunmingChina
  2. 2.Institute of International Rivers and Eco–securityYunnan UniversityKunmingChina
  3. 3.Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesChengduChina

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