Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2017, Vol. 41 ›› Issue (5): 506-518.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2016.0142

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatio-temporal characteristics of evapotranspiration and water use efficiency in grasslands of Xinjiang

Xiao-Tao HUANG1,2, Ge-Ping LUO1,*   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Ürümqi 830011, China;

    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Online:2017-06-22 Published:2017-05-10
  • Contact: Ge-Ping LUO
  • About author:

    KANG Jing-yao(1991-), E-mail:


Aims Xinjiang is located in the hinterland of the Eurasian arid areas, with grasslands widely distributed. Grasslands in Xinjiang provide significant economic and ecological benefits. However, research on evapotranspiration (ET) and water use efficiency (WUE) of the grasslands is still relatively weak. This study aimed to explore the spatio-temporal characteristics on ET and WUE in the grasslands of Xinjiang in the context of climate change.Methods The Biome-BGC model was used to determine the spatio-temporal characteristics of ET and WUE of the grasslands over the period 1979-2012 across different seasons, areas and grassland types in Xinjiang.Important findings The average annual ET in the grasslands of Xinjiang was estimated at 245.7 mm, with interannual variations generally consistent with that of precipitation. Overall, the value of ET was lower than that of precipitation. The higher values of ET mainly distributed in the Tianshan Mountains, Altai Mountains, Altun Mountains and the low mountain areas on the northern slope of Kunlun Mountains. The lower values of ET mainly distributed in the highland areas of Kunlun Mountains and the desert plains. Over the period 1979-2012, average annual ET was 183.2 mm in the grasslands of southern Xinjiang, 357.9 mm in the grasslands of the Tianshan Mountains, and 221.3 mm in grasslands of northern Xinjiang. In winter, ET in grasslands of northern Xinjiang was slightly higher than that of Tianshan Mountains. Average annual ET ranked among grassland types as: mid-mountain meadow > swamp meadow > typical grassland > desert grassland > alpine meadow > saline meadow. The highest ET value occurred in summer, and the lowest ET value occurred in winter, with ET in spring being slightly higher than that in autumn. The higher WUE values mainly distributed in the areas of Tianshan Mountains and Altai Mountains. The lower WUE values mainly distributed in the highland areas of Kunlun Mountains and part of the desert plains. The average annual WUE in the grasslands of Xinjiang was 0.56 g·kg-1, with the seasonal values of 0.43 g·kg-1 in spring, 0.60 g·kg-1 in summer, and 0.48 g·kg-1 in autumn, respectively. Over the period 1979-2012, the values of WUE displayed significant regional differences: the average values were 0.73 g·kg-1 in northern Xinjiang, 0.26 g·kg-1 in southern Xinjiang, and 0.69 g·kg-1 in Tianshan Mountains. There were also significant differences in WUE among grassland types. The values of WUE ranked in the order of mid-mountain meadow > typical grassland > swamp meadow > saline meadow > alpine meadow > desert grassland.

Key words: evapotranspiration, water use efficiency, climate change, Biome-BGC, arid area

Fig. 1

Sketch map of study areas. A, Topography and regional classification. B, Grassland types. C, Mean annual precipitation in grasslands. D, Average annual temperature in grasslands."

Table 1

Parameters of the Biome-BGC model calibrated based on previous studies"

参数 Parameter 盐生草甸、平原荒漠草原和平原沼泽草甸
Saline meadow, plain desert grassland and plain swamp meadow
Typical grassland and low mountain swamp meadow
Mid-mountain meadow and mid-mountain swamp meadow
Alpine meadow, alpine desert grassland and alpine swamp meadow
Day of the year to start new growth
80 85 100 112
Day of the year to end litter fall
310 317 300 270
Ratio of C allocation to new fine roots over new leaves
4.0 3.0 2.0 2.5
Canopy-average specific leaf area (m2·kg-1)
12.5 12.0 30.0 25.0

Fig. 2

Validation of simulated daily evapotranspiration (ET) by Biome-BGC model. A, Validation site in typical grassland of Ürümqi County. B, Validation site in alpine meadow of Aksu. RMSE, root mean squared error."

Fig. 3

Validation of simulated aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) and net primary productivity (NPP) by Biome-BGC model. A, ANPP validation. B, NPP validation. RMSE, root mean squared error."

Fig. 4

Spatio-temporal distribution of evapotranspiration (ET) in grasslands of study area during 1979-2012. A, Spatial distribution of annual average ET. B, Interannual variability of ET across different seasons."

Fig. 5

Changes in evapotranspiration (ET), precipitation and air temperature in grasslands of Xinjiang during 1979-2012. A, Annual. B, Spring. C, Summer. D, Autumn. E, Winter."

Table 3

Regional statistics of evapotranspiration (ET) in grasslands of Xinjiang (unit: mm)"





South Xinjiang
35.7 107.5 33.5 6.5 183.2
North Xinjiang
44.9 121.2 39.7 15.5 221.3
Tianshan Mountains
67.0 213.3 63.0 14.6 357.9

Table 4

The statistics of evapotranspiration (ET) for different grassland types in Xinjiang (unit: mm)"

类型 Type




Alpine meadow
47.2 134.8 40.2 7.5 229.7
Mid-mountain meadow
72.4 231.9 64.8 18.5 387.7
Typical grassland
64.7 202.3 59.6 17.3 343.9
Desert grassland
45.1 136.1 43.0 11.9 236.2
Saline meadow
32.3 87.0 28.8 6.5 154.7
Swamp meadow
68.3 212.3 60.1 17.7 358.3

Fig. 6

Spatio-temporal distribution of water use efficiency (WUE) in grasslands of study area during 1979-2012. A, Spatial distribution of annual average WUE. B, Interannual variability of WUE across different seasons."

Table 5

Regional statistics of water use efficiency (WUE) in grasslands of Xinjiang (unit: g·kg-1)"




South Xinjiang
0.24 0.29 0.24 0.26
North Xinjiang
0.67 0.92 0.66 0.73
Tianshan Mountains
0.56 0.82 0.65 0.69

Table 6

The statistics of water use efficiency (WUE) for different grassland types in Xinjiang (unit: g·kg-1)"

类型 Type



Alpine meadow
0.23 0.44 0.38 0.37
Mid-mountain meadow
0.62 1.05 0.81 0.86
Typical grassland
0.70 1.01 0.76 0.84
Desert grassland
0.36 0.41 0.31 0.34
Saline meadow
0.50 0.63 0.47 0.52
Swamp meadow
0.56 0.92 0.73 0.77
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