Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Soil exchangeable base cations along a chronosequence of Caragana microphylla plantation in a semi-arid sandy land, China


As a pioneer leguminous shrub species for vegetation re-establishment, Caragana microphylla is widely distributed in the semi-fixed and fixed sandy lands of the Horqin region, North China. C. microphylla planta-tions modify organic carbon (SOC), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus dynamics, bulk density and water-holding capacity, and biological activities in soils, but little is known with regard to soil exchange properties. Variation in soil exchangeable base cations was examined under C. microphylla plantations with an age sequence of 0, 5, 10, and 22 years in the Horqin Sandy Land, and at the depth of 0–10, 10–20, and 20–30 cm, respectively. C. microphylla has been planted on the non-vegetated sand dunes with similar physical-chemical soil properties. The results showed that exchangeable calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), and potassium (K), and cation exchange capacity (CEC) were significantly increased, and Ca saturation tended to decrease, while Mg and K saturations were increased with the plantation years. No difference was observed for exchangeable sodium (Na) neither with plantation years nor at soil depths. Of all the base cations and soil layers, exchangeable K at the depth of 0–10 cm accumulated most quickly, and it increased by 1.76, 3.16, and 4.25 times, respectively after C. microphylla was planted for 5, 10, and 22 years. Exchangeable Ca, Mg, and K, and CEC were significantly (P<0.001) and positively correlated with SOC, total N, pH, and electrical conductivity (EC). Soil pH and SOC are regarded as the main factors influencing the variation in exchangeable cations, and the preferential absorption of cations by plants and different leaching rates of base cations that modify cation saturations under C. microphylla plantation. It is concluded that as a nitrogen-fixation species, C. microphylla plantation is beneficial to increasing exchangeable base cations and CEC in soils, and therefore can improve soil fertility and create favorable microenvironments for plants and creatures in the semi-arid sandy land ecosystems.


cation exchange capacity; soil organic carbon; soil pH; soil fertility; Caragana microphylla; ecological restoration

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