Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (9): 1310-1321.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0176

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Soil respiration and its influencing factors in a desert steppe in northwestern China under changing precipitation regimes

LI Bing1,2, ZHU Wan-Wan3, HAN Cui1, YU Hai-Long3, HUANG Ju-Ying2,*()   

  1. 1School of Forestry and Prataculture, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
    2Breeding Base for State Key Laboratory of Land Degradation and Ecological Restoration in Northwestern China, Key Laboratory of Restoration and Reconstruction of Degraded Ecosystems in Northwestern China of Ministry of Education, School of Ecology and Environment, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
    3School of Geography and Planning, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
  • Received:2022-05-05 Accepted:2022-09-07 Online:2023-09-20 Published:2023-09-28
  • Contact: * HUANG Ju-Ying(
  • Supported by:
    Natural Science Foundation of Ningxia(2022AAC02012);Natural Science Foundation of Ningxia(2022AAC03120);National Natural Science Foundation of China(32160277)


Aims Soil respiration is one of the most critical components of carbon cycle in terrestrial ecosystems. The study on temporal dynamics of soil respiration and its linkage with environmental factors in desert steppes under changing precipitation can provide data supports for a deep understanding of the regulatory mechanisms of key carbon cycling processes in fragile ecosystems.
Methods A field experiment involving five precipitation treatments (50% reduction, 30% reduction, natural, 30% increase, 50% increase) was set up in 2014 in a desert steppe in Ningxia. The temporal dynamics of soil respiration rate were explored during the growing season (from June to October) in 2019, and the relationships between soil respiration rate and soil properties and plant characteristics were analyzed.
Important findings Soil respiration rate showed a seasonal variation of an increasing and a decreasing trend across the growing season, with the maximum values (2.79-5.35 μmol·m-2·s-1) occurring in late July or early August. Compared with the natural condition, 30% reduction in precipitation did not result in a significant effect on soil respiration rate, reflecting the adaptability of soil respiration to moderate drought. Overall, 50% reduction in precipitation reduced soil respiration rate, whereas increased precipitation (especially the 30% increase) enhanced soil respiration rate, and this positive effect was especially obvious in the early growing season (June to July). Soil respiration rate had a significantly exponential relationship with soil temperature and a significantly linear relationship with soil water content. Soil physicochemical property had a highly independent explanatory power for soil respiration rate (R2 = 0.36), and its effect was highly correlated with soil biological property and plant diversity (R2 = 0.31). Precipitation could affect soil respiration rate either directly or indirectly through the influences on soil biological property and plant biomass. The results indicated that a moderate increase in precipitation could accelerate soil respiration by alleviating soil water limitation, stimulating soil enzyme activity, promoting microbial activity and plant growth in the desert steppe, and that an extreme increase in precipitation would lead to a decrease in soil permeability and a hindrance to microbial metabolic activity, thus inhibiting soil respiration.

Key words: changing precipitation pattern, desert steppe, plant community characteristic, soil carbon source, soil property