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Changes in soil and vegetation following stabilisation of dunes in the southeastern fringe of the Tengger Desert, China

Abstract

Properties of the soil and sand-binding vegetation were measured at five sites plus a control on dunes of the Tengger Desert stabilized for periods of up to 50 years. In the topsoil, fine particles, total N, P, K and organic matter increased significantly with increasing site age. However, there were no significant changes in deeper soil profiles (>0.4 m depth). Soil pH, calcium carbonate content, and total salt content tended to increase with age. Soil water in the topsoil changed little with increasing age, but was closely related to rainfall during the 50-year period. For deeper soil layers (0.4–3.0 m) soil water decreased significantly with age. After revegetation, the number of herbaceous species increased up to 30 years and then levelled off to 12–14 species, whereas the number of shrub species decreased from the 10 initial sand-binding species to only 3 species. Shrub cover decreased from a highest average of about 33% to the current 9%, whereas cover and biomass of herbaceous species increased throughout succession from 1956 to 2006. The development of soil and cryptogamic crusts on the surface of stabilized dunes enhanced the colonization and establishment of herbaceous plants due to increasing water availability, clay and silt content and soil nutrients. We propose that changes in properties of the surface soil led to increased interception of water, favoring shallow rooted grasses and forbs over perennial shrubs.

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Acknowledgments

We gratefully acknowledge Dr. N. Jim Barrow and Dr. David Eldridge for their valuable comments as technical editors for this manuscript. This study was supported by the Chinese National Natural Scientific Foundation (40671011, 90202015).

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Correspondence to X. R. Li.

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Responsible Editor: N. Jim Barrow.

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Li, X.R., Kong, D.S., Tan, H.J. et al. Changes in soil and vegetation following stabilisation of dunes in the southeastern fringe of the Tengger Desert, China. Plant Soil 300, 221–231 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11104-007-9407-1

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