31 Jan 2023
 | 31 Jan 2023
Status: a revised version of this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

The degree and depth limitation of deep soil desiccation and its impact on xylem hydraulic conductivity in dryland tree plantations

Nana He, Xiaodong Gao, Dagang Guo, Yabiao Wu, Dong Ge, Lianhao Zhao, Lei Tian, and Xining Zhao

Abstract. In water-limited areas, planted trees can result in severe deep-layer (> 200 cm) soil desiccation due to excessive root water uptake in deep soils, threatening the sustainability of trees per se. However, it remains unclear about the limitation in relation to both degree and depth of deep-layer soil moisture (DSM) beyond which root water uptake ceases as well as its dependence on tree species and its effect on tree’s xylem hydraulic conductivity. Based on the published data and multiple field samplings on China’s Loess Plateau, we found that the permanent wilting point (PWP) is a good indicator of the degree limitation of DSM irrespective of tree species, with the corresponding maximum depth of soil moisture use reaching 18.0–22.0 m for these planted trees and even 25 m for black locust in the driest site. Furthermore, when the degree and depth limitations were reached, the percent loss of xylem hydraulic conductivity of planted tree’s shoots reached 74.9–96.5 %, indicating that tree mortality may occur. The findings will help to predict the sustainability of planted trees in semiarid regions with thick vadose zone.

Nana He et al.

Status: final response (author comments only)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2023-12', Anonymous Referee #1, 13 Feb 2023
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Xiaodong Gao, 17 Mar 2023
  • RC2: 'Comment on hess-2023-12', Anonymous Referee #2, 03 Mar 2023
    • AC2: 'Reply on RC2', Xiaodong Gao, 27 Mar 2023

Nana He et al.


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Short summary
Deep-layer soil desiccation (DSD) can restrict the sustainability of deep-rooted plantations in water-limited areas. Thus, we explored the extreme effects of DSD based on mass data published and measured of the Loess Plateau, and found that the permanent wilting point is a good indicator of the degree limitation of DSD irrespective of tree species, with the corresponding depth limitation of DSD varies among climatic zones. Moreover, these limitations increased the risk of planted trees death.