Water, Vol. 14, Pages 53: Water Use Characteristics of Two Dominant Species in the Mega-Dunes of the Badain Jaran Desert

Water doi: 10.3390/w14010053

Jie Qin
Jianhua Si
Bing Jia
Chunyan Zhao
Dongmeng Zhou
Xiaohui He
Chunlin Wang
Xinglin Zhu

The sparse natural vegetation develops special water use characteristics to adapt to inhospitable desert areas. The water use characteristics of such plants in desert areas are not yet completely understood. In this study, we compare the differences in water use characteristics between two dominant species of the Badain Jaran Desert mega-dunes—Zygophyllum xanthoxylum and Artemisia ordosica—by investigating δ2H and δ18O in plant xylem (the organization that transports water and inorganic salts in plant stems) and soil water, and δ13C in plant leaves. The results indicate that Z. xanthoxylum absorbed 86.5% of its water from soil layers below 90 cm during growing seasons, while A. ordosica derived 79.90% of its water from the 0–120 cm soil layers during growing seasons. Furthermore, the long-term leaf-level water use efficiency of A. ordosica (123.17 ± 2.13 μmol/mol) was higher than that of Z. xanthoxylum (97.36 ± 1.16 μmol/mol). The differences in water use between the two studied species were mainly found to relate to their root distribution characteristics. A better understanding of the water use characteristics of plants in desert habitats can provide a theoretical basis to assist in the selection of species for artificial vegetation restoration in arid areas.

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MDPI Publishing

By Jie Qin