Environmental Earth Sciences

, 78:100 | Cite as

Variation in soil hydrological properties on shady and sunny slopes in the permafrost region, Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau

  • Yan Sun
  • Yibo WangEmail author
  • Wenjing Yang
  • Zhe Sun
  • Jinpeng Zhao
Original Article


Soil hydrological properties not only directly influenced soil water content, evapotranspiration, infiltration, and runoff, but also made these factors of concern in arid and semi-arid regions. Prior research has focused on the temporal and spatial variation in soil hydrological properties and the impacts of climate change, ecosystem changes over time or human activities on soil hydrological properties. However, studies conducted on the differences in soil hydrological properties between shady and sunny slopes have seldom been conducted, especially in the permafrost region of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. To investigate the variation in soil hydrological properties on shady and sunny slopes, we chose the Zuomaokongqu watershed of Fenghuo Mountain, which is located on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, as the study area. Three experimental sites were selected in the study area, and the distance between experimental sites was 100 m. Based on the differences in altitude and vegetation coverage, five sunny slope sample points and three shady slope sample points were selected in each experimental site. At each of these sample points, the soil water content, soil-saturated conductivity, soil water-retention curve, soil physico-chemical properties, aboveground biomass, and underground biomass were examined in the top 0–50 cm of the active layer. The results showed that the soil hydrological properties of shady slopes differed significantly from those of sunny slopes. The soil water content of sunny slopes was 20.9% less than that of shady slopes. The soil-saturated water content of sunny slopes was 12.2% less than that of shady slopes. The soil water content of sunny slopes at − 0.3 Mpa and − 0.7 Mpa matric potential was 23.5% and 21.4% less than that of shady slopes, respectively. It was indicated that the soil water-retention capacity of sunny slopes was lower than that of shady slopes. However, the soil-saturated conductivity of sunny slopes was 84.5% larger than that of shady slopes and exceeded the range of soil-saturated conductivity, which was useful for plant growth. Meanwhile, the vegetation coverage on sunny slopes was lower than that on shady slopes, but the soil sand content showed the opposite relationship. Pearson’s coefficient analysis results showed that vegetation coverage and soil desertification, which are affected by permafrost degradation, were the main factors influencing soil hydrological properties on shady and sunny slopes. These results will help determine appropriate hydraulic parameters for hydrological models in mountain areas.


Shady and sunny slopes Soil hydrological properties Vegetation coverage Soil desertification Permafrost 



The project supported by the Key Project of Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 91547203), the National Natural Science of China (Grant no. 41877149). In addition, the Key Project of Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant no. 41530752). We also thank two anonymous reviewers for their careful review and suggestions that improved the manuscript.


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Copyright information

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

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Western China’s Environmental Systems (Ministry of Education), College of Earth and Environmental SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.State Key laboratory of Frozen Soil Engineering, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and ResourcesChinese Academy of Sciences (CAS)LanzhouChina

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