Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

Response of soil water dynamics to precipitation years under different vegetation types on the northern Loess Plateau, China


Implementation of the Grain-for-Green project has led to rapid land cover changes and resulted in a significantly increased vegetation cover on the Loess Plateau of China during the past few decades. The main objective of this study was to examine the responses of soil water dynamics under four typical vegetation types against precipitation years. Soil water contents (SWCs) were measured in 0–4.0 m profiles on a hillslope under the four vegetation types of shrub, pasture, natural fallow and crop in a re-vegetated catchment area from April to October in normal (2010), dry (2011), wet (2014) and extremely wet (2013) years. The results indicated that precipitation and vegetation types jointly controlled the soil water temporal dynamics and profile characteristics in the study region. SWCs in 0–4.0 m profiles of the four vegetation types were ranked from high to low as crop>fallow>pasture>shrub and this pattern displayed a temporal stability over the four years. In the extremely wet year, SWC changes occurred in the 0–2.0 m layer under shrub and pasture while the changes further extended to the depth of 4.0-m deep layers under fallow and crop. In the other three years, SWCs changes mainly occurred in the 0–1.0 m layer and kept relatively stable in the layers deeper than 1.0 m for all the four vegetation types. The interannual variation in soil depth of SWCs was about 0–2.0 m for shrub and pasture, about 0–3.4 m for fallow and about 0–4.0 m for crop, respectively. The dried soil layers formed at the depths of 1.0, 0.6, 1.6 and 0.7 m under shrub, and 1.0, 1.0, 2.0 and 0.9 m under pasture, respectively in 2010, 2011, 2013 and 2014. The infiltrated rainwater mostly stayed in the 0–1.0 m layer and hardly supplied to soil depth >1.0 m in normal, dry and wet years. Even in the extremely wet year of 2013, rainwater recharge depth did not exceed 2.0 m under shrub and pasture. This implied that soil desiccation was difficult to remove in normal, dry and wet years, and soil desiccation could be removed in 1.0–2.0 m soil layers even in the extremely wet year under shrub and pasture. The results indicated that the natural fallow was the best vegetation type for achieving sustainable utilization of soil water and preventing soil desiccation.

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