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Forests 2018, 9(1), 34; https://doi.org/10.3390/f9010034

Groundwater Depth and Soil Properties Are Associated with Variation in Vegetation of a Desert Riparian Ecosystem in an Arid Area of China

1
Key Laboratory of Plant Resources, West China Subalpine Botanical Garden, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xiangshan, Beijing 100093, China
2
College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 23 November 2017 / Revised: 10 January 2018 / Accepted: 12 January 2018 / Published: 15 January 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Forest Sustainable Management)
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Abstract

Groundwater is a major driving force for plant community distribution in arid areas worldwide. Although it is well known that groundwater has a significant impact on soil and vegetation, there is little information on how groundwater depth affects soil and vegetation in an arid inland basin desert riparian ecosystem. Therefore, quantitative analysis of the relationships among groundwater depth, soil properties and plant community distribution is necessary. A desert riparian ecosystem in the lower reaches of the Heihe River in an arid area of Northwest China was used to determine quantitative relationships among groundwater depth, soil and vegetation. Groundwater depth significantly increased with increased distance from the river. Soil and vegetation characteristics showed a significant trend with increasing groundwater depth. With increasing groundwater depth, soil water content, soil total nitrogen, soil total carbon, soil available phosphorus and soil available potassium decreased, while the soil bulk density and soil carbon:nitrogen (C:N) ratio increased. Soil pH and soil electrical conductivity followed quadratic function relationships with groundwater depth. Species richness, aboveground biomass, community coverage, community height, foliage projective cover and leaf area index all significantly decreased with increased groundwater depth. Groundwater depth and soil were associated with vegetation variance, explaining 85.8% of the vegetation variance. Groundwater depth was more important in explaining vegetation variance than soil properties (soil bulk density) and soil pH. Our observations indicate that changes in groundwater depth would have a significant influence on desert riparian forest vegetation, and that maintaining appropriate groundwater depth is necessary to preserve the riparian ecosystem. View Full-Text
Keywords: plant community; arid inland basin; Heihe River; soil properties; desert riparian forest vegetation plant community; arid inland basin; Heihe River; soil properties; desert riparian forest vegetation
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Zhang, X.; Guan, T.; Zhou, J.; Cai, W.; Gao, N.; Du, H.; Jiang, L.; Lai, L.; Zheng, Y. Groundwater Depth and Soil Properties Are Associated with Variation in Vegetation of a Desert Riparian Ecosystem in an Arid Area of China. Forests 2018, 9, 34.

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