Plant and Soil

, Volume 341, Issue 1–2, pp 399–412 | Cite as

Seasonal water use patterns of woody species growing on the continuous dolostone outcrops and nearby thin soils in subtropical China

  • Yun-peng Nie
  • Hong-song Chen
  • Ke-lin Wang
  • Wei Tan
  • Peng-yan Deng
  • Jing Yang
Regular Article


In karst regions, forests often grow on bedrock outcrops, however the water sources used by the forest vegetation are not known. This study aimed at investigating whether there were seasonal shifts (dry/wet season) of water sources for plants growing on the continuous dolostone outcrops, and comparing their differences with those growing on nearby thin soils in karst areas of southwest China. Rainwater, soil water within 0–30 cm depths, spring water (as a reflection of local deep water sources) and plant xylem water were sampled in March (late dry season) and July (mid rainy season) 2009, respectively. A direct inference approach and the IsoSource mixing model were used to estimate the contributions of different sources to the plant xylem water. On the outcrops, the deciduous tree species Radermachera sinica mainly used deep water sources during the dry season and a mixture of rainwater and deep water sources during the wet season. By contrast, the deciduous small shrub Alchornea trewioides largely relied on recent rainwater during both dry and wet seasons. Three non-deciduous species (Sterculia euosma, Schefflera octophylla and Ficus orthoneura) appear to rely on deep water sources during the wet seasons. In nearby thin soils, R. sinica mainly utilized deep water in the dry season and a mixture of soil water and deep water in the wet season. A. trewioides relied on the same water sources (rainwater-derived soil water) in the different seasons. The above results indicate that inter-specific differences in rooting patterns and leaf phenologies may lead to the differences in the sources of water used by coexisting plant species in karst regions.


Continuous dolostone outcrops Spring water Water use patterns Stable isotopes IsoSource Southwest China 



This research was supported by the Knowledge Innovation Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-YW-QN404), the Action Plan for the Development of Western China of Chinese Academy of Sciences (KZCX2-XB2-08), and the National Natural Science Foundation of China (40501034). We thank the two editors (Hans Lambers and Rafael S. Oliveira) and the two anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments and suggestions on this manuscript. We would like to thank Yuan Ke and Na Li (Chinese Academy of Forestry) for their help in laboratory.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yun-peng Nie
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Hong-song Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ke-lin Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Wei Tan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Peng-yan Deng
    • 2
  • Jing Yang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.Key Laboratory for Agro-ecological Processes in Subtropical Region, Institute of Subtropical AgricultureChinese Academy of SciencesChangshaChina
  2. 2.Huanjiang Observation and Research Station for Karst Eco-systemsChinese Academy of SciencesHuanjiangChina
  3. 3.Graduate School of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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