Journal of Arid Land

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 335–346 | Cite as

Revegetation with artificial plants improves topsoil hydrological properties but intensifies deep-soil drying in northern Loess Plateau, China

  • Qingyin Zhang
  • Xiaoxu Jia
  • Chunlei Zhao
  • Ming’an Shao


Knowledge about the effects of vegetation types on soil properties and on water dynamics in the soil profile is critical for revegetation strategies in water-scarce regions, especially the choice of vegetation type and human management measures. We focused on the analysis of the effects of vegetation type on soil hydrological properties and soil moisture variation in the 0–400 cm soil layer based on a long-term (2004―2016) experimental data in the northern Loess Plateau region, China. Soil bulk density (BD), saturated soil hydraulic conductivity (Ks), field capacity (FC) and soil organic carbon (SOC) in 2016, as well as the volumetric soil moisture content during 2004–2016, were measured in four vegetation types, i.e., shrubland (korshinsk peashrub), artificial grassland (alfalfa), fallow land and cropland (millet or potato). Compared with cropland, revegetation with peashrub and alfalfa significantly decreased BD and increased Ks, FC, and SOC in the 0–40 cm soil layer, and fallow land significantly increased FC and SOC in the 0–10 cm soil layer. Soil water storage (SWS) significantly declined in shrubland and grassland in the 40–400 cm soil layer, causing severe soil drought in the deep soil layers. The study suggested that converting cropland to grassland (alfalfa) and shrubland (peashrub) improved soil-hydrological properties, but worsened water conditions in the deep soil profile. However, natural restoration did not intensify deep-soil drying. The results imply that natural restoration could be better than revegetation with peashrub and alfalfa in terms of good soil hydrological processes in the semi-arid Loess Plateau region.


soil drying soil hydrological property soil moisture vegetation restoration Loess Plateau 


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This research was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41501233, 41601216, 41390461), the National Key Project for Research and Development (2016YFC0501605), the Youth Innovation Promotion Association of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (2017076) and the Open Research Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau (A314021402-1806). The authors are indebted to the editors and reviewers for the constructive comments and suggestions on the article.


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Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qingyin Zhang
    • 1
  • Xiaoxu Jia
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chunlei Zhao
    • 1
  • Ming’an Shao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess PlateauNorthwest A&F UniversityYanglingChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Resources and EnvironmentUniversity of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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