pp 1–11 | Cite as

Increased drought and atmospheric CO2 positively impact intrinsic water use efficiency but do not promote tree growth in semi-arid areas of northwestern China

  • Kanglong Lu
  • Ning Chen
  • Xiaowei Zhang
  • Jingru Wang
  • Minghao Wang
  • Salman Khan
  • Chun Han
  • Cankun Zhang
  • Shuyuan Wang
  • Luning Wang
  • Wenting Gao
  • Yongjing Liu
  • Changming ZhaoEmail author
Original Article


Key message

This work studied the response of tree growth to the increased drought and carbon dioxide in semi-arid areas of northwestern China.


Forests ecosystems play a key role in the global carbon cycle. However, effects of increased drought and rising atmospheric carbon dioxide (Ca) on it are complex and there are many uncertainties. In this study, we evaluated this issue through dendroecology in semi-arid regions of northwest China. Results found the basal area increment of trees decreased by 28% (from 7.59 to 5.43 cm2 year−1) as the intrinsic water use efficiency increased 32% (from 98.61 to 130.28 µmol mol−1). Despite both Ca and drought positively affected intrinsic water use efficiency, they did not promote tree growth. Meanwhile, values of intercellular [CO2] increased 14% (from 158.83 to 180.89 ppm) while the ratio of intercellular [CO2] to Ca decreased 7% (from 0.50 to 0.46). Our study advances understanding of the variability of the global carbon cycle under climate change.


Climate change Basal area increment Carbon isotopes Tree rings Picea wilsonii 



This study is funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant nos. 31522013, 31370603 and 31170571). Ning Chen is supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 31700373) and the Chinese Postdoctoral Science Foundation (Grant no. 2017M620479). We also thank the editor and three anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and suggestions.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kanglong Lu
    • 1
  • Ning Chen
    • 1
  • Xiaowei Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Jingru Wang
    • 1
  • Minghao Wang
    • 1
  • Salman Khan
    • 1
  • Chun Han
    • 1
  • Cankun Zhang
    • 1
  • Shuyuan Wang
    • 1
  • Luning Wang
    • 1
  • Wenting Gao
    • 1
  • Yongjing Liu
    • 1
  • Changming Zhao
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-Ecosystems, School of Life SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Forestry College of Gansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina

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