Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (4): 466-474.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2017.0249

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Sap flow of Robinia pseudoacacia in response to rainfall exclusion treatment and environment factors in a sub-humid area in Loess Plateau

Qiu-Yue HE1,2,Mei-Jie YAN2,3,Jian-Guo ZHANG4,Sheng DU2,3,*()   

  1. 1 College of Forestry, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China;
    2 State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on Loess Plateau, Northwest A&F University, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China;
    3 Institute of Soil and Water Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences & Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China;
    4 Upper and Middle Yellow River Bureau, Xi’an 710021, China;
  • Online:2018-03-08 Published:2018-04-20
  • Contact: Sheng DU
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41471440 and 41411140035).


Aims Global climate change will increase the uncertainty of precipitation patterns and affect the growth and distribution of plants. In the sub-humid and semi-arid areas of central China, black locust (Robinia pseudoacacia) plantations are widely planted in reforestation practices. These forests are vulnerable to climate change induced water stress. This research aims to clarify the responses of black locust transpiration to rainfall and soil water conditions.

Methods To evaluate the responses of transpiration to precipitation changes, we measured and contrasted sap flow of black locust trees under throughfall exclusion treatment and the non-treated control in the Huaiping plantation forest of Yongshou County, a sub-humid area in Loess Plateau. Throughfall and soil moisture for both control and treatment plots were monitored. Waterproof panels were set in April 2015 for the treatment plot which excluded about 47.5% of the precipitation during the growing season. Stem sap flow in treatment and control plots have been measured since 2014 using Granier-type sensors. Meteorological factors including solar radiation, air temperature, and relative air humidity were monitored simultaneously outside the forest stand.

Important findings Difference in soil moisture developed between treatment and control plots, the mean soil moisture content in treatment plot was 23.76%, lower than 22.59% (p < 0.001, n = 31) in the control plot during the middle growing season. Sap flux densities reduced following the treatment. The mean sap flux density under general weather conditions for the treatment plot was 1.64 mL·m -2·s -1, not only lower than 2.42 mL·m -2·s -1 of the previous year (before treatment), but also lower than 3.38 mL·m -2·s -1 for control plot during the same period. The response patterns of sap flux density to solar radiation and vapor pressure deficit were also different, with the trees in treatment plot showing lower sensitivities to meteorological factors than those in the control plot. Our results show that transpiration of planted black locust trees was suppressed by the throughfall exclusion. The responses of transpiration to meteorological factors decreased compared with a pretreatment period or control plot. These results suggest that decrease in precipitation will not only reduce soil moisture, but may cause decreased transpiration, decreased responses to climatic variables, and lowered productivity as well.

Key words: Robinia pseudoacacia, Granier-type sensor, rainfall exclusion, sap flow, transpiration

Table 1

Basic parameters of sample trees"

tree No.
height (m)
Diameter at
breast height (cm)
Sap wood
thinkness (cm)
2014 1 14.1 13.8 3.6
2 17.7 19.5 4.6
3 10.7 10.3 2.9
4 10.4 10.4 2.9
5 10.6 10.4 2.9
6 18.7 20.0 4.7
2015 1 16.5 14.1 3.6
2 19.9 20.0 4.7
3 10.7 10.3 2.9
4 11.3 10.8 3.0
5 11.3 10.5 2.9
6 18.8 20.3 4.7

Fig. 1

Soil water content (SWC) and precipitation during the two study periods."

Fig. 2

Diurnal courses of sap flux density of sample trees and meteorology factors during two study periods (14 July 2015 was excluded from analyses due to overcast)."

Table 2

Solar radiation, vapor pressure deficit and sap flux densities (Fd) in the two study periods and their ratios (mean ± SE, n = 6)"

Study period
Mean daily solar
radiation (MJ·m-2·d-1)
Mean vapor pressure
deficit (kPa)
Mean sap flux density of
sample tree 1-3 (mL·m-2·s-1)
Mean sap flux density of
sample tree 4-6 (mL·m-2·s-1)
处理前 Before treatment (2014) 20.62 ± 1.69 0.65 ± 0.03 3.53 ± 2.67 2.42 ± 1.84
处理期 Treatment (2015) 21.96 ± 1.51 0.53 ± 0.0201 3.38 ± 2.93 1.64 ± 1.39
处理期/处理前Treatment/Before treatment 1.07 0.81 0.96 0.68

Fig. 3

Response patterns of sap flux density to vapor pressure deficit for the arising stage in the morning."

Table 3

Difference analyses on regression parameters for sap flux density vs. vapor pressure deficit"

Sample tree 1-3
Sample tree 4-6
Difference between slopes
2014 a = 8.41 a = 6.78 NS
R2 = 0.64 R2 = 0.63
p < 0.000 1 p < 0.000 1
2015 a = 12.33 a = 5.34 p < 0.001
R2 = 0.59 R2 = 0.69
p < 0.000 1 p < 0.000 1
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