Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2010, Vol. 34 ›› Issue (4): 375-386.DOI: 10.3773/j.issn.1005-264x.2010.04.003

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Influence of solar radiation and groundwater table on carbon balance of phreatophytic desert shrub Tamarix

XU Hao1,2,*(), LI Yan1,2, XIE Jing-Xia3, CHENG Lei1,2, ZHAO Yan1,2, LIU Ran1,4   

  1. 1Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ürümqi 830011, China
    2Key Laboratory of Oasis Ecology and Desert Environment, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, ürümqi 830011, China
    3Bureau of Agriculture, Forestry, Fishery and Stockbreeding, Toutunhe District, ürümqi 830022, China
    4Graduate University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2009-04-08 Accepted:2009-06-21 Online:2010-04-08 Published:2010-04-01
  • Contact: XU Hao


Aims The groundwater table has changed and air pollution has been reducing solar radiation on the southern periphery of China’s Gurbantonggut Desert. Our objective was to investigate the response and adaptation of Tamarix ramosissima, a native dominant desert shrub in Central Asia, towards variation in groundwater and photosynthetically active radiation (PAR), in terms of ecophysiological activities, morphological characteristics and community carbon/water balances.

Methods During the growing season from 2005 to 2007, we carried out experiments in the original habitat of T. ramosissima, where the groundwater table fluctuated from 2.9 to 4.5 m. Photosynthesis, transpiration, leaf water potential, water-use efficiency and root distribution were examined to reveal the water-use strategy of the species, and CO2 and H2O fluxes above an undisturbed T. ramosissima ecosystem were measured by eddy covariance method to evaluate net carbon assimilation, water loss and leaf area index (LAI).

Important findings Physiological activity and community carbon uptake of T. ramosissima did not respond to sustained drought in upper soil or rainfall pulses, and its photosynthetic consistency is achieved by its water-use pattern. Special stomatal behavior and root distribution are two main mechanisms. Tamarix ramosissima tends to maximize its carbon gain at the cost of higher water consumption, attributable to its phreatophytic root system that ensures sufficient groundwater supply and avoids the effects of water deficiency in upper soil. Tamarix ramosissima can adapt to moderate fluctuation of groundwater table, but severe decline will threaten its survival, and hence the overexploitation of groundwater will cause severe degradation of Tamarix-dominated perennial vegetation and disturb the original ecohydrological processes in this arid region. PAR is another important environmental factor positively correlating with community carbon uptake. The LAI indicates that the seasonal pattern in community carbon assimilation represents the combined effects of groundwater table and PAR on the phenological photosynthesis capacity. It shows that the integrated study on different scales is an effective approach to further the understanding of desert shrub adaptive strategies and ecosystem processes under variable environmental conditions.

Key words: community carbon/water flux, desert ecology, ecophysiological response, leaf area index, phreatophyte, plant water-use strategy