Journal of Arid Land

, Volume 10, Issue 6, pp 821–832 | Cite as

Stable isotope analysis of water sources for Tamarix laxa in the mega-dunes of the Badain Jaran Desert, China

  • Jinhu Zhang
  • Nai’ang WangEmail author
  • Zhenmin Niu
  • Jie Sun
  • Chunyu Dong
  • LyuLyu Zhang


The complex interactions in desert ecosystems between functional types and environmental conditions could be reflected by plant water use patterns. However, the mechanisms underlying the water use patterns as well as the water sources of Tamarix laxa in the mega-dunes of the Badain Jaran Desert, China, remain unclear. This study investigated the water sources and water use patterns of T. laxa using the stable oxygen isotope method. The δ18O values of xylem water, soil water in different layers (0–200 cm), rainwater, snow water, lake water, atmospheric water vapor, condensate water, and groundwater were measured. The sources of water used by T. laxa were determined using the IsoSource model. The results indicate that T. laxa mainly relies on soil water. At the beginning of the growing season (in May), the species is primarily dependent on water from the middle soil layer (60–120 cm) and deep soil layer (120–200 cm). However, it mainly absorbs water from the shallow soil layer (0–60 cm) as the rainy season commences. In September, water use of T. laxa reverts to the deep soil layer (120–200 cm). The water use patterns of T. laxa are closely linked with heavy precipitation events and soil water content. These findings reveal the drought resistance mechanisms of T. laxa and are of significance for screening species for ecological restoration.


stable oxygen isotope water source water use pattern soil water stem water mega-dune Tamarix laxa 


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This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41530745, 41371114, 41361004). The authors are grateful to the State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Desertification and Aeolian Sand Disaster Combating, Gansu Desert Control Research Institute for providing support for sample testing.


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Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jinhu Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Nai’ang Wang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Zhenmin Niu
    • 1
  • Jie Sun
    • 1
  • Chunyu Dong
    • 3
  • LyuLyu Zhang
    • 1
  1. 1.College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory Breeding Base of Gansu Desertification and Aeolian Sand Disaster CombatingGansu Desert Control Research InstituteLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Department of GeographyUniversity of CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA

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