Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2018, Vol. 42 ›› Issue (9): 885-905.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2018.0083

• Review •     Next Articles

Characteristics and underlying mechanisms of plant deep soil water uptake and utilization: Implication for the cultivation of plantation trees

XI Ben-Ye1,*(),DI Nan1,*,CAO Zhi-Guo1,4,*,LIU Jin-Qiang1,LI Dou-Dou1,WANG Ye1,2,LI Guang-De3,DUAN Jie1,JIA Li-Ming1,ZHANG Rui-Na1   

  1. 1Ministry of Education Key Laboratory of Silviculture and Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083, China
    2Institute of Agriculture and Forestry Sciences, Beijing Academy of Forestry and Pomology, Beijing 100093, China
    3Faculty of Agriculture, Forestry and Medicine, The Open University of China, Beijing 100039, China
    4 Key Laboratory for Yellow River and Huaihe River Water Environmental and Pollution Control, Ministry of Education, School of Environment, Henan Normal University, Xinxiang, Henan 453007, China
  • Received:2018-04-11 Revised:2018-09-10 Online:2018-09-20 Published:2018-09-26
  • Contact: Ben-Ye XI,Nan DI,Zhi-Guo CAO
  • Supported by:
    Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31872702);Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31670625);Supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China(31400532);the National Key Research and Development Program of China(2016YFD0600403);the Key Technologies R&D Program of China(2015BAD09B02)


Root water uptake is an essential part of tree water relations and plays a crucial role in tree physiological activities. Water resource in deep soil is relatively abundant and can provide plenty of water to trees to guarantee their survival and healthy growth during dry seasons. Thus, a good comprehension of the characteristics and underlying mechanisms of deep soil water uptake and utilization by trees will deepen the understanding of the interaction between trees and the environment, tree survival and growth strategies, coexistence and competition among different species, etc. This knowledge is important in establishing green cultivation schemes for plantations, which depend less on the external water resources input and avoid the adverse effects on the water ecological environment. From existing studies, the characteristics and underlying mechanisms of deep water uptake and utilization by trees are reviewed. Firstly, the definition of deep roots and deep soil is discussed, and 1 m depth is recommended as the average (reference) definition standard in main forest vegetation types except the boreal forest. The reasons for the formation of deep tree roots around the globe were also determined. Secondly, the observed deep soil water uptake characteristics of trees and their influencing factors are summarized. Then, from the aspects of the adjustment of deep root traits and the coordination of hydraulic traits of different organs, the mechanisms of deep water uptake by trees are discussed. For example, the spatial, temporal and efficiency adjustment strategies of deep roots can be used to facilitate the absorption of deep soil water. Finally, some implications of deep soil water uptake for the cultivation of plantations are proposed, such as “for water management in plantations, trees should be induced to moderately utilize some deep soil water and an appropriate irrigation frequency should be selected”, “appropriate mixed planting of different tree species can facilitate the buffering effect of deep soil water storage”, “developing techniques of selecting trees for thinning based on the water uptake depths of different species”, etc. Deficiencies of existing studies and some future research directions were also pointed out.

Key words: deep root, deep soil, root water uptake, hydraulic lift, fine root, plantation