Special Issue "Impacts of Climate Change on Plant Water Use, Carbon Balance, Nutrient Economy, and Their Interactions"

A special issue of Water (ISSN 2073-4441). This special issue belongs to the section "Water and Climate Change".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2021) | Viewed by 17423

Special Issue Editor

Dr. YongJiang Zhang
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
School of Biology and Ecology, University of Maine, Orono, ME, USA
Interests: plant stress physiology; climate change; crop physiology; plant hydraulics; regional hydrology; drought; sustainability science; ecophysiology
Special Issues, Collections and Topics in MDPI journals

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The anthropogenic global climate change includes not only rising air temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations, but also increasing climate variabilities and extremes. All these aspects associated with climate change will significantly affect plant, ecosystem, and regional level physical/physiological processes. Among a variety of physiological processes, water use/circulation, carbon balance/cycle, and nutrient economy are the major ones that are sensitive to climate change and important to plant/ecosystem functioning. How these processes can adapt to relatively quick changes in climate conditions and increased climate variability is among the most important questions in global change biology. Further, these physical and physiological processes are linked with each other, and their interactions are also responding to climate change. For instance, plant nutrient absorption can be facilitated by transpiration-driven water mass flow from the bulk of the soil to the rhizosphere. Nutrient translocation in plants also depends on the water flow. Rising temperatures and carbon dioxide concentrations will influence plant stomatal conductance and water use, and, consequently, affect plant nutrient absorption and translocation. Meanwhile, alternations in water use and nutrient absorption will also result in changes in photosynthetic capacity and carbon assimilation. Investigations of these different processes and their interactions under climate change are necessary to gain a synthesized view of plant–environment interactions. This information is fundamental for predicting the future of natural and agricultural systems and for developing sustainable natural resource management strategies.

This Special Issue aims to gather high-quality papers emphasizing climate change effects on plant water use, carbon balance, nutrient economy, and their interactions at different scales. Submitted contributions will go through a peer-review process performed by independent reviewers. Original case studies and review papers are invited for publication in this Special Issue.

Prof. Dr. YongJiang Zhang
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • climate change
  • global warming
  • elevated CO2
  • drought, climate variability
  • water relations
  • nutrient accumulation
  • carbon assimilation
  • agriculture
  • ecosystem water cycle
  • hydrology

Published Papers (12 papers)

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Research

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Article
Coordination among Water Transport, Photosynthesis and Nutrition under Climate Change: Stronger Responses of a Native than an Invasive Herb
Water 2022, 14(18), 2828; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14182828 - 11 Sep 2022
Viewed by 354
Abstract
Climate change will impact all plant physiological processes including water transport, photosynthesis, and nutrient assimilation. How these processes are coordinated in response to climate change is not fully understood. Here we tested how these processes will respond to elevated CO2 concentration ([CO [...] Read more.
Climate change will impact all plant physiological processes including water transport, photosynthesis, and nutrient assimilation. How these processes are coordinated in response to climate change is not fully understood. Here we tested how these processes will respond to elevated CO2 concentration ([CO2]) and temperatures for two herbaceous species (an invasive and a native Eupatorium species in East Asia; family Asteraceae) and whether these processes are coordinated using a controlled experiment. We also investigated the differences between these two species, and the structural basis for changes in physiology. Leaf photosynthetic capacity (Amax, measured under ambient conditions) increased significantly in the native species, while that of the invasive species did not change under elevated [CO2] and temperatures. The leaf hydraulic conductance (Kleaf) of both species tended to increase under elevated temperatures and [CO2], with that of the native species increasing to a greater extent. Changes in Kleaf and Amax were coordinated, and Kleaf was closely associated with leaf minor vein density across treatments. The increased photosynthetic capacity of the native species was probably related to an increased N investment in photosynthesis; its leaf N decreased but chlorophyll concentration increased inviting detailed studies in N partitioning. No coordination between water use (water transport, stomatal conductance, and water use efficiency) and leaf tissue nutrient (N, P) concentrations was found, probably owing to the active control in nutrient uptake. Thus, photosynthesis is coordinated with water transport in response to climate change, while the coordination between water use and nutrient accumulation can be absent due to active control. Our results also suggest that global climate change will not necessarily fuel more positive responses in invasive plants than native plants. Full article
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Article
Strawberry Growth under Current and Future Rainfall Scenarios
Water 2022, 14(3), 313; https://doi.org/10.3390/w14030313 - 21 Jan 2022
Viewed by 942
Abstract
Globally, the changing and interacting effects of temperature and precipitation are anticipated to influence the fitness of specialty crops. Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is an important crop in the Northeastern United States. In this study, four plausible precipitation scenarios were developed [...] Read more.
Globally, the changing and interacting effects of temperature and precipitation are anticipated to influence the fitness of specialty crops. Strawberry (Fragaria x ananassa) is an important crop in the Northeastern United States. In this study, four plausible precipitation scenarios were developed to be representative of current and future growing season precipitation patterns. Using a precipitation simulator, we tested these scenarios on potted-day-neutral strawberries. This study generated four primary results. (1) Though some treatments received different amounts of precipitation, little difference was observed in soil volumetric water content or temperature. Treatments designed to simulate future conditions were more likely to have higher nitrate-in-leachate (N-leachate) concentrations than those designed to simulate current conditions. (2) Neither total precipitation nor seasonable distribution were associated with foliar or root disease pressure. (3) While there was a slightly higher chance that photosynthesis would be higher in drier conditions, little difference was observed in the effects on chlorophyll concentration and no water stress was detected in any treatment. (4) Leaf biomass was likely more affected by total rather than seasonal distribution of precipitation, but the interaction between changing rainfall distribution and seasonal totals is likely to be an important driver of root biomass development in the future. Full article
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Article
Dry-Season Fog Water Utilization by Epiphytes in a Subtropical Montane Cloud Forest of Southwest China
Water 2021, 13(22), 3237; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223237 - 15 Nov 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1246
Abstract
Fog water is generally considered to be an important water source for epiphytes in cloud forests because they cannot directly access ground-level water sources. However, the water use proportions of potential water sources and water use efficiency of epiphytes in the subtropical montane [...] Read more.
Fog water is generally considered to be an important water source for epiphytes in cloud forests because they cannot directly access ground-level water sources. However, the water use proportions of potential water sources and water use efficiency of epiphytes in the subtropical montane cloud forests (MCF) remain to be further explored. In this study, we investigated the water use pattern in the dry season and the intrinsic water use efficiency (WUEi) of four epiphyte groups (i.e., epiphytic lichens, epiphytic bryophytes, epiphytic ferns, and epiphytic seed plants) using stable isotope (δ2H, δ18O, and δ13C) techniques. Our results indicated that the water sources of epiphytes were significantly different among groups and species. The contribution proportions of fog water to epiphytic lichens, epiphytic bryophytes, epiphytic ferns, and epiphytic seed plants were 83.2%, 32.7%, 38.8% and 63.7%, respectively. Epiphytic lichens and epiphytic seed plants mainly depended on fog water whereas the epiphytic bryophytes and epiphytic ferns relied on both fog water and humus. This may be due to their differences in morphological and structural traits (e.g., thallus or leaves, rhizoid or roots). Additionally, the difference in WUEi was also significant among epiphyte groups and species, which could be related to their different water acquisition patterns. In conclusion, our study reveals the differentiation of water utilization in epiphytes and confirms the importance of fog water for epiphytes during the dry season. Full article
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Article
The Role of Forests in Climate Change Regarding Carbon, Nitrogen, and Water: A Case Study of Pinus densiflora
Water 2021, 13(21), 3050; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13213050 - 01 Nov 2021
Viewed by 527
Abstract
We examined the influence of climate change on the dynamics of Pinus densiflora, the most dominant tree species in South Korea, to explore its potential for climate change mitigation. We considered changes in precipitation, temperature, and CO2 under four representative concentration [...] Read more.
We examined the influence of climate change on the dynamics of Pinus densiflora, the most dominant tree species in South Korea, to explore its potential for climate change mitigation. We considered changes in precipitation, temperature, and CO2 under four representative concentration pathway (RCP) scenarios separately and in combination to evaluate the responses of Pinus densiflora to climate change. A well-tested ecohydrological and biogeochemical model, ecosys, was used to study the Gwangneung Experimental Forest in South Korea. Results showed that the positive effects of CO2 fertilizer on gross primary productivity (GPP) and net primary productivity (NPP) outweighed the negative effects caused by changes in precipitation and temperature. In particular, NPP improvements of 3.79%, 13.44%, 18.26%, and 28.91% were modeled under RCP values of 2.6, 4.5, 6.5, and 8.5, respectively, compared to the baseline. We found that nitrogen leaching and N2O flux reduced as climate change become severe due to increases in nutrient uptake, leading to reduced soil nitrogen losses. Although evapotranspiration increased as the intensity of climate change increased, reductions in the stomatal opening improved the water use efficiency of Pinus densiflora. These results indicated that Pinus densiflora could serve as an environmentally friendly option to minimize climate change consequences. Full article
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Article
Impacts of Rainfall and Temperature Changes on Smallholder Agriculture in the Limpopo Province, South Africa
Water 2021, 13(20), 2872; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13202872 - 14 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 890
Abstract
The intensity and frequency in the recurrence of extreme climate events are compounding the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, who have always lacked the resources to adapt. The increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall are exacerbating water scarcity challenges through drought recurrence. There is an [...] Read more.
The intensity and frequency in the recurrence of extreme climate events are compounding the vulnerability of smallholder farmers, who have always lacked the resources to adapt. The increasing temperatures and decreasing rainfall are exacerbating water scarcity challenges through drought recurrence. There is an urgent need for pathways that lead towards Sustainable Development Goals, mainly Goals 1 (no poverty) and 2 (zero hunger) in poor rural communities. This study assessed rainfall and temperature trends from 1960 to 2018 and their impacts on crop production in the Mopani and Vhembe Districts of Limpopo Province, South Africa. Trend analysis was used to analyse rainfall patterns, as well as the trends in temperature recorded for the past 58 years. The climate moisture index (CMI) and runoff estimates were used to assess the degree of aridity and water availability, respectively. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and remotely sensed data were used to assess the changes over time. The total annual rainfall has declined significantly while annual minimum and maximum temperatures have increased significantly during the period under observation. An aridity index of −0.70 calculated for the study areas classifies the districts as dry and water scarce. The results of the analysis also indicate that the districts are climate change hot spots, and are highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. The changes are compounding water and food insecurity. Policy and decision-makers should focus on enhancing adaptation and resilience initiatives in the study areas through systematic, transformative, and integrated approaches, such as scenario planning, circular economy, and nexus planning. Full article
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Article
Is Drought Caused by Fate? Analysis of Farmers’ Perception and Its Influencing Factors in the Irrigation Areas of GAP-Şanlıurfa, Turkey
Water 2021, 13(18), 2519; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13182519 - 14 Sep 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1243
Abstract
This research aims to determine the belief-based drought perceptions and attitudes of farmers in Şanlıurfa, which is in a semi-arid climate regime, and the factors affecting them. The surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews with farmers selected by a simple random sampling method [...] Read more.
This research aims to determine the belief-based drought perceptions and attitudes of farmers in Şanlıurfa, which is in a semi-arid climate regime, and the factors affecting them. The surveys were conducted through face-to-face interviews with farmers selected by a simple random sampling method in 2020. Analyses were performed with ordinal logit regression in STATA. According to the results, while the effects of settlement location, land size, age, and the size of the household were statistically significant to farmers seeing drought, which is the dependent variable, as caused by fate, the effects of income, experience, and education level were insignificant. For the probability of predicting drought for each independent variable in the sequence analysis, the highest probabilities were found among farmers in the Harran Plain, with 21–30 years of experience, from a household of one to four people, with the land area between 5.1 and 10.0 hectares, aged 61 and above, who were primary school graduates, and who had an annual income of less than 25,000 TL ($3561). The subject of drought should be given more place in religious education in the entire research area by prioritizing these groups. It would also be beneficial to organize workshops for the farmers by agricultural consultants, where Islamic scholars would be present to support science and knowledge in terms of faith. This study is the first in this context in Turkey and provides useful data to policymakers for drought-mitigation policies. Full article
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Article
Contrasting Water Use, Stomatal Regulation, Embolism Resistance, and Drought Responses of Two Co-Occurring Mangroves
Water 2021, 13(14), 1945; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13141945 - 15 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1131
Abstract
The physiological mechanisms underlying drought responses are poorly documented in mangroves, which experience nearly constant exposure to saline water. We measured gas exchange, foliar abscisic acid (ABA) concentration, and vulnerability to embolism in a soil water-withholding experiment of two co-occurring mangroves, Avicennia marina [...] Read more.
The physiological mechanisms underlying drought responses are poorly documented in mangroves, which experience nearly constant exposure to saline water. We measured gas exchange, foliar abscisic acid (ABA) concentration, and vulnerability to embolism in a soil water-withholding experiment of two co-occurring mangroves, Avicennia marina (Forsskål) Vierhapper (Verbenaceae) and Bruguiera gymnorrhiza (L.) Savigny (Rhizophoraceae). A. marina showed higher photosynthesis and transpiration than B. gymnorrhiza under well-watered conditions. Cavitation resistance differed significantly between species, with 50% cavitation occurring at a water potential (P50) of −8.30 MPa for A. marina and −2.83 MPa for B. gymnorrhiza. This large difference in cavitation resistance was associated with differences in stomatal closure and leaf wilting. The rapid stomatal closure of B. gymnorrhiza was correlated with ABA accumulation as water potential declined. Meanwhile, stomatal closure and declining water potentials in A. marina were not associated with ABA accumulation. The safety margins, calculated as the difference between stomatal closure and embolism spread, differed between these two species (1.59 MPa for A. marina vs. 0.52 MPa for B. gymnorrhiza). Therefore, A. marina adopts a drought tolerance strategy with high cavitation resistance, while B. gymnorrhiza uses a drought avoidance-like strategy with ABA-related sensitive stomatal control to protect its vulnerable xylem. Full article
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Article
Variation in Xylem Hydraulic Structure and Function of Two Mangrove Species across a Latitudinal Gradient in Eastern Australia
Water 2021, 13(6), 850; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13060850 - 19 Mar 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1212
Abstract
Mangroves growing in tropical and subtropical intertidal zones face challenges from warming and altered rainfall patterns associated with global climate change. Intraspecific variation in hydraulic traits may allow a mangrove species to acclimate to novel climatic conditions, yet little is known regarding the [...] Read more.
Mangroves growing in tropical and subtropical intertidal zones face challenges from warming and altered rainfall patterns associated with global climate change. Intraspecific variation in hydraulic traits may allow a mangrove species to acclimate to novel climatic conditions, yet little is known regarding the potential for adaptive plasticity in these traits. In this study, we aimed to quantify the variation in plant hydraulic traits of two widespread mangrove species growing across a latitudinal gradient. We investigated the xylem hydraulic structure and function of Avicennia marina and Aegiceras corniculatum, across three sites spanning a latitudinal gradient of 17.45° in eastern Australia. We found that both species were highly resistant to xylem embolism and that there was significant intraspecific variation in hydraulic traits between sites. The highest embolism resistance and sapwood-specific hydraulic conductivity (KS) were found at the lowest latitude site that had the highest mean annual temperature and precipitation. A. marina showed no differences in vessel size and density among sites. It has other special features such as successive cambia enhancing its ability to adapt to a large environmental gradient. In contrast, A. corniculatum showed higher vessel densities at lower latitudes. There was a significant and positive correlation (R2 = 0.72, p < 0.05) between KS and embolism resistance across species and sites, suggesting the absence of a tradeoff between hydraulic efficiency and safety. Both embolism resistance and KS were negatively correlated with wood density but positively with vessel wall reinforcement. This study reveals that these two widespread mangrove species were adapted to warmer climates by enhancing both hydraulic efficiency and safety. Full article
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Article
Climate Change Patterns of Wild Blueberry Fields in Downeast, Maine over the Past 40 Years
Water 2021, 13(5), 594; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13050594 - 25 Feb 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 4682
Abstract
Maine, USA is the largest producer of wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton), an important native North American fruit crop. Blueberry fields are mainly distributed in coastal glacial outwash plains which might not experience the same climate change patterns as the whole region. [...] Read more.
Maine, USA is the largest producer of wild blueberries (Vaccinium angustifolium Aiton), an important native North American fruit crop. Blueberry fields are mainly distributed in coastal glacial outwash plains which might not experience the same climate change patterns as the whole region. It is important to analyze the climate change patterns of wild blueberry fields and determine how they affect crop health so fields can be managed more efficiently under climate change. Trends in the maximum (Tmax), minimum (Tmin) and average (Tavg) temperatures, total precipitation (Ptotal), and potential evapotranspiration (PET) were evaluated for 26 wild blueberry fields in Downeast Maine during the growing season (May–September) over the past 40 years. The effects of these climate variables on the Maximum Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVImax) were evaluated using Remote Sensing products and Geographic Information System (GIS) tools. We found differences in the increase in growing season Tmax, Tmin, Tavg, and Ptotal between those fields and the overall spatial average for the region (state of Maine), as well as among the blueberry fields. The maximum, minimum, and average temperatures of the studied 26 wild blueberry fields in Downeast, Maine showed higher rates of increase than those of the entire region during the last 40 years. Fields closer to the coast showed higher rates of warming compared with the fields more distant from the coast. Consequently, PET has been also increasing in wild blueberry fields, with those at higher elevations showing lower increasing rates. Optimum climatic conditions (threshold values) during the growing season were explored based on observed significant quadratic relationships between the climate variables (Tmax and Ptotal), PET, and EVImax for those fields. An optimum Tmax and PET for EVImax at 22.4 °C and 145 mm/month suggest potential negative effects of further warming and increasing PET on crop health and productivity. These climate change patterns and associated physiological relationships, as well as threshold values, could provide important information for the planning and development of optimal management techniques for wild blueberry fields experiencing climate change. Full article
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Article
Overlapping Water and Nutrient Use Efficiencies and Carbon Assimilation between Coexisting Simple- and Compound-Leaved Trees from a Valley Savanna
Water 2020, 12(11), 3037; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12113037 - 29 Oct 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 814
Abstract
Identifying differences in ecophysiology between simple and compound leaves can help understand the adaptive significance of the compound leaf form and its response to climate change. However, we still know surprisingly little about differences in water and nutrient use, and photosynthetic capacity between [...] Read more.
Identifying differences in ecophysiology between simple and compound leaves can help understand the adaptive significance of the compound leaf form and its response to climate change. However, we still know surprisingly little about differences in water and nutrient use, and photosynthetic capacity between co-occurring compound-leaved and simple-leaved tree species, especially in savanna ecosystems with dry-hot climate conditions. From July to September in 2015, we investigated 16 functional traits associated with water use, nutrients, and photosynthesis of six deciduous tree species (three simple-leaved and three compound-leaved species) coexisting in a valley-savanna in Southwest China. Our major objective was to test the variation in these functional traits between these two leaf forms. Overall, overlapping leaf mass per area (LMA), photosynthesis, as well as leaf nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations were found between these coexisting valley-savanna simple- and compound-leaved tree species. We didn’t find significant differences in water and photosynthetic nitrogen or phosphorus use efficiency between simple and compound leaves. Across these simple- and compound-leaved tree species, photosynthetic phosphorus use efficiencies were positively related to LMA and negatively correlated with phosphorus concentration per mass or area. Water use efficiency (intrinsic water use efficiency or stable carbon isotopic composition) was independent of all leaf traits. Similar ecophysiology strategies among these coexisting valley-savanna simple- and compound-leaved species suggested a convergence in ecological adaptation to the hot and dry environment. The overlap in traits related to water use, carbon assimilation, and stress tolerance (e.g., LMA) also suggests a similar response of these two leaf forms to a hotter and drier future due to the climate change. Full article
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Article
Performance of Three Sorghum Cultivars under Excessive Rainfall and Waterlogged Conditions in the Sudano-Sahelian Zone of West Africa: A Case Study at the Climate-Smart Village of Cinzana in Mali
Water 2020, 12(10), 2655; https://doi.org/10.3390/w12102655 - 23 Sep 2020
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1193
Abstract
Recent climate analyses show trends for increasing precipitation variability with increasing precipitation sums in Mali. The increasing occurrence of temporary intra-seasonal droughts and waterlogging longer than a week demands climate-smart solutions. Research has focused on water deficits since the 1980s. However, besides droughts, [...] Read more.
Recent climate analyses show trends for increasing precipitation variability with increasing precipitation sums in Mali. The increasing occurrence of temporary intra-seasonal droughts and waterlogging longer than a week demands climate-smart solutions. Research has focused on water deficits since the 1980s. However, besides droughts, waterlogging can restrict productivity of sensitive cash and staple crops as cotton and corn. The year 2019 offered the historically unique opportunity to monitor waterlogging effects with 1088 mm precipitation in the rural commune Cinzanawith an isohyet of 681 mm. Impacts of two extreme downpours on three sorghum cultivars were monitored in a farmers-field experiment with three replications. All sorghum cultivars performed well in 2019 with significantly higher grain and above ground biomass yields than in the reference year 2007, with well distributed rainfall in Cinzana. “Jakumbè” (CSM63E) produced significantly higher grain yields than the hybrid cultivar “PR3009B” bred for high harvest index. The local cultivar “Gnofing” selected by local farmers produced significantly higher above ground biomass. All cultivars tolerated without severe stress symptoms 20 days waterlogging and 72 h inundation. Further waterlogging resilience research of other crops and other sorghum cultivars is needed to strengthen food security in Mali with expected increasing precipitation variation in the future. Full article
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Review

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Review
Role of Biochar in Improving Sandy Soil Water Retention and Resilience to Drought
Water 2021, 13(4), 407; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13040407 - 04 Feb 2021
Cited by 13 | Viewed by 1671
Abstract
In recent years, plants in sandy soils have been impacted by increased climate variability due to weak water holding and temperature buffering capacities of the parent material. The projected impact spreads all over the world, including New England, USA. Many regions of the [...] Read more.
In recent years, plants in sandy soils have been impacted by increased climate variability due to weak water holding and temperature buffering capacities of the parent material. The projected impact spreads all over the world, including New England, USA. Many regions of the world may experience an increase in frequency and severity of drought, which can be attributed to an increased variability in precipitation and enhanced water loss due to warming. The overall benefits of biochar in environmental management have been extensively investigated. This review aims to discuss the water holding capacity of biochar from the points of view of fluid mechanics and propose several prioritized future research topics. To understand the impacts of biochar on sandy soils in-depth, sandy soil properties (surface area, pore size, water properties, and characteristics) and how biochar could improve the soil quality as well as plant growth, development, and yield are reviewed. Incorporating biochar into sandy soils could result in a net increase in the surface area, a stronger hydrophobicity at a lower temperature, and an increase in the micropores to maximize gap spaces. The capability of biochar in reducing fertilizer drainage through increasing water retention can improve crop productivity and reduce the nutrient leaching rate in agricultural practices. To advance research in biochar products and address the impacts of increasing climate variability, future research may focus on the role of biochar in enhancing soil water retention, plant water use efficiency, crop resistance to drought, and crop productivity. Full article
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