Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Root characteristics of Alhagi sparsifolia seedlings in response to water supplement in an arid region, northwestern China


The effect of variation in water supply on woody seedling growth in arid environments remain poorly known. The subshrub Alhagi sparsifolia Shap. (Leguminosae), distributed in the southern fringe of the Taklimakan Desert, Xinjiang, northwestern China, has evolved deep roots and is exclusively dependent on groundwater, and performs a crucial role for the local ecological safety. In the Cele oasis, we studied the responses of A. sparsifolia seedling roots to water supplement at 10 and 14 weeks under three irrigation treatments (none water supply of 0 m3/m2 (NW), middle water supply of 0.1 m3/m2 (MW), and high water supply of 0.2 m3/m2 (HW)). The results showed that the variations of soil water content (SWC) significantly influenced the root growth of A. sparsifolia seedlings. The leaf area, basal diameter and crown diameter were significantly higher in the HW treatment than in the other treatments. The biomass, root surface area (RSA), root depth and relative growth rate (RGR) of A. sparsifolia roots were all significantly higher in the NW treatment than in the HW and MW treatments at 10 weeks. However, these root parameters were significantly lower in the NW treatment than in the other treatments at 14 weeks. When SWC continued to decline as the experiment went on (until less than 8% gravimetric SWC), the seedlings still showed drought tolerance through morphological and physiological responses, but root growth suffered serious water stress compared to better water supply treatments. According to our study, keeping a minimum gravimetric SWC of 8% might be important for the growth and establishment of A. sparsifolia during the early growth stage. These results will not only enrich our knowledge of the responses of woody seedlings to various water availabilities, but also provide a new insight to successfully establish and manage A. sparsifolia in arid environments, further supporting the sustainable development of oases.


arid environment; Alhagi sparsifolia; roots; irrigation treatments; oasis

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