Stemflow in two xerophytic shrubs and its significance to soil water and nutrient enrichment

Research paper by Ya-feng Zhang, Xin-ping Wang, Rui Hu, Yan-xia Pan, Hao Zhang

Indexed on: 30 Apr '13Published on: 30 Apr '13Published in: Ecological Research


Shrub canopies are expected to funnel substantial amounts of intercepted rainwater with enriched nutrients as stemflow to shrub base in the desert ecosystems characterized by limited water and nutrients. However, lacking are quantitative studies on the water and nutrient enrichment of stemflow at the shrub basal area. In this study, stemflow were quantified for two xerophytic shrubs (Caragana korshinskii and Artemisia ordosica) in a revegetated desert ecosystem of Shapotou area in northwestern China. We also measured the ion concentrations of total nitrogen (TN), total phosphors (TP), NH4+–N, NO3−–N, Na+, K+, Ca2+, Mg2+, Cl−, SO42− and the pH and electric conductivity (EC) in stemflow, throughfall and bulk precipitation. Results indicated that stemflow accounted for 8.8 and 2.8 % of the gross rainfall for C. korshinskii and A. ordosica, respectively. Individual stemflow linearly increased with increasing rainfall depth. Stemflow increased with rainfall intensity when rainfall intensity was less than 2 mm h−1 but showed decreased tendency thereafter. An antecedent precipitation of 1.3 and 1.6 mm was necessary for stemflow initiation for C. korshinskii and A. ordosica, respectively. The mean (confidence intervals, α = 0.05) funneling ratio was 82 (17) for C. korshinskii and 26 (7) for A. ordosica. Ion concentrations in stemflow were higher than in throughfall, and the concentration of most of the ions measured were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in stemflow than in bulk precipitation, with a nutrient enrichment ratio ranged 122.8–1677.0 for C. korshinskii and 12.6–1306.0 for A. ordosica among measured ions, respectively. Overall, the larger funneling ratios and enrichment ratios for the two shrubs suggest that stemflow plays a significant positive role in soil water replenishment and nutrient enrichment at deeper soil profile of root zone in the revegetated ecosystems under arid desert conditions.