Canopy storage capacity of xerophytic shrubs in northwestern China

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Abstract

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The capacity of shrub canopy water storage is a key factor in controlling the rainfall interception. Thus, it affects a variety of hydrological processes in water-limited arid desert ecosystems. Vast areas of revegetated desert ecosystems in Northwestern China are occupied by shrub and dwarf shrub communities. Yet, data are still scarce regarding their rainwater storage capacity. In this study, simulated rainfall tests were conducted in controlled conditions for three dominant xerophytic shrub types in the arid Tengger Desert. Eight rainfall intensities varying from 1.15 to 11.53 mm h−1 were used to determine the canopy water storage capacity. The simulated rainfall intensities were selected according to the long-term rainfall records in the study area. The results indicate that canopy storage capacity (expressed in water storage per leaf area, canopy projection area, biomass, and volume of shrub respectively) increased exponentially with increase in rainfall intensity for the selected shrubs. Linear relationships were found between canopy storage capacity and leaf area (LA) or leaf area index (LAI), although there was a striking difference in correlation between storage capacity and LA or LAI of Artemisia ordosica compared to Caragana korshinskii and Hedysarum scoparium. This is a result of differences in biometric characteristics, especially canopy morphology between the shrub species. Pearson correlation coefficient indicated that LA and dry biomass are better predictors as compared to canopy projection area and volume of samples for precise estimation of canopy water storage capacity. In terms of unit leaf area, mean storage capacity was 0.39 mm (range of 0.24–0.53 mm), 0.43 mm (range of 0.28–0.60 mm), and 0.61 mm (range of 0.29–0.89 mm) for C. korshinskii, H. scoparium, and A. ordosica, respectively. Correspondingly, divided per unit dry biomass, mean storage capacity was 0.51 g g−1 (range of 0.30–0.70 g g−1), 0.41 g g−1 (range of 0.26–0.57 g g−1), and 0.73 g g−1 (range of 0.38–1.05 g g−1) for C. korshinskii, H. scoparium, and A. ordosica, respectively, when the rainfall intensities ranged from 1.15, 2.31, 3.46, 4.61, 6.92, 9.23 to 11.53 mm h−1. The needle-leaved species A. ordosica had a higher canopy water storage capacity than the ovate-leaved species C. korshinskii and H. scoparium at the same magnitude of rainfall intensity, except for C. korshinskii when it was expressed in unit of canopy projection area. Consequently, A. ordosica will generate higher interception losses as compared to C. korshinskii and H. scoparium. This is especially the case as it often forms dense dwarf shrub communities despite its small size.

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Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Water Engineering
  • Other Social Sciences

Keywords

  • Xerophytic shrubs, Canopy water storage, Rainfall intensities, Rainfall simulation, Arid desert ecosystems
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)152-159
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Volume454-455
Publication statusPublished - 2012
Publication categoryResearch
Peer-reviewedYes