Brazilian Journal of Botany

, Volume 41, Issue 2, pp 329–336 | Cite as

Photosynthesis-related properties are affected by desertification reversal and associated with soil N and P availability

  • Kaiyang Qiu
  • Yingzhong Xie
  • Dongmei Xu
  • Tuoye Qi
  • Richard Pott
Original Article


The understanding of the relationship between desertification reversal, a globally significant process, and two fundamental properties of plants, i.e., leaf chlorophyll (Chl) content and photosynthesis, can lead to breakthroughs in research in global environmental change. But much still remains to be known about whether plants acquire adaptive changes during the process of desertification reversal and about their relationships with soil mineral resources. In the present study, leaf total Chl content and photosynthetic characteristics of two common plant species, Pennisetum centrasiaticum Tzvel. and Leymus secalinus (Georgi) Tzvel., were investigated in relation with the soil properties in areas at five different stages of desertification reversal in Southern Mu Us Sandy Land, China. Leaf total Chl content of P. centrasiaticum significantly (P < 0.05) increased by 13.35%, and the net photosynthetic rate (Pn) of L. secalinus increased by 88.8% in the process of desertification reversal. Both Pn of L. secalinus and Chl content of P. centrasiaticum were significantly associated with soil available nitrogen (AN) and phosphorus (AP). However, there was no significant association between Pn of L. secalinus and soil water content (SW) or between leaf Chl content of P. centrasiaticum and SW. Our findings suggest that the availability of N and P in soil could explain the adaptive changes in photosynthesis-related properties of common plant species for different stages of desertification reversal. This further implicates the roles of soil N and P availability in the adaption of plants to environmental changes. Our results also suggest that soil water content may not be a limiting factor for plant adaption when the rainy season overlaps with growing season.


Chlorophyll content Common plant species Photosynthetic characteristics Plant–soil relationship 



The authors would like to thank Tsu-Wei Chen for his critical reading of this paper; Helen Reese for her improvement in the manuscript’s language. We also thank the entire staff of the Agriculture Research Center of Sidunzi, Yanchi, Ningxia, for their help with accommodation during our sampling and measurements in the field. This work is supported by the Ministry of Science and Technology of the People’s Republic of China (2016YFC0500505), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31160484), and China Scholarship Council (CSC).

Authors’ contributions

KQ and YX designed the research; KQ, YX, and DX carried out the experiments; KQ and TQ analyzed the data; KQ and RP wrote the paper. All authors contributed to the review of the manuscript. The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Botanical Society of Sao Paulo 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kaiyang Qiu
    • 1
  • Yingzhong Xie
    • 2
  • Dongmei Xu
    • 2
  • Tuoye Qi
    • 3
    • 4
  • Richard Pott
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of GeobotanyLeibniz Universität HannoverHannoverGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Grassland SciencesNingxia UniversityYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.Institute of Environmental EngineeringNingxia UniversityYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.Ningxia (China-Arab) Key Laboratory of Environmental Assessment and Resource Regulation in Arid RegionYinchuanPeople’s Republic of China

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