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Spatio-temporal variation of soil moisture in a fixed dune at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert in Xinjiang, China

Abstract

Soil moisture is critical for vegetation growth in deserts. However, detailed data regarding the soil moisture distribution in space and time in the Gurbantunggut Desert of China have not yet been reported. In this study, we conducted a series of in situ observation experiments in a fixed sand dune at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert from February 2014 to October 2016, to explore the spatio-temporal variation of soil moisture content, investigate the impact of Haloxylon ammodendron (C. A. Mey.) Bungeon soil moisture content in its root zone, and examine the factors influencing the soil moisture spatial pattern. One-way analysis of variance, least significant difference tests and correlation analysis were used to analyze the data. The results revealed that the soil moisture content exhibited annual periodicity and the temporal variation of soil moisture content throughout a year could be divided into three periods, namely, a moisture-gaining period, a moisture-losing period and a moisture-stable period. According to the temporal and spatial variability, the 0–400 cm soil profile could be divided into two layers: an active layer with moderate variability and a stable layer with weak variability. The temporal variability was larger than the spatial variability in the active layer, and the mean profile soil moisture content at different slope positions displayed the trend of decreasing with increasing relative height and mainly followed the order of interdune area>west and east slopes>slope top. The mean profile soil moisture content in the root zone of dead H. ammodendron individuals was significantly higher than that in the root zones of adult and young individuals, while the soil moisture content in the root zone of adult individuals was slightly higher than that in the root zone of young individuals with no significant difference. The spatial pattern of soil moisture was attributable to the combined effects of snowfall, vegetation and soil texture, whereas the effects of rainfall and evaporation were not significant. The findings may offer a foundation for the management of sandy soil moisture and vegetation restoration in arid areas.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41671032, U1303181, U1806215), the National Key Research and Development Programs of China (2016YFC0501401, 2016YFD0200303, 2016YFC0501309, 2016YFC0501201), the National Basic Research Program of China (2013CB429902), and the Key Deployment Project of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KFZD-SW-112-03-02). We thank all the staffs of the Fukang Desert Ecosystem Observation and Experiment Station, Chinese Academy of Sciences, for their excellent field and laboratory assistance, and the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments.

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Correspondence to Jingsong Yang.

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Zhu, H., Hu, S., Yang, J. et al. Spatio-temporal variation of soil moisture in a fixed dune at the southern edge of the Gurbantunggut Desert in Xinjiang, China. J. Arid Land 11, 685–700 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-019-0104-8

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-019-0104-8

Keywords

  • fixed sand dune
  • soil moisture
  • root zone
  • Haloxylon ammodendron
  • Gurbantunggut Desert