Phenology determines water use strategies of three economic tree species in the semi-arid Loess Plateau of China

W. Wu, Z. Tao, G. Chen, T. Meng, Y. Li, H. Feng, B. Si, K. Manevski, M.N. Andersen, K.H.M. Siddique

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15 Citations (Scopus)


Economic tree species growing in the semi-arid Loess Plateau of China are important for maintaining sound economic viability and protecting the fragile hydro-ecological environment. However, their water use strategies and ecological adaptation to dryland environments remain poorly understood. In this study, we measured variations in soil water content, root distribution, water isotopic signature for hydrogen (δ2H) and oxygen (δ18O) in xylem and soil water of peach (Prunus persica), walnut (Juglans regia L.), and apple (Malus pumila) trees, as well as carbon isotopic signature (δ13C) in their leaves during two consecutive growing seasons—2018 (normal year) and 2019 (wet year). The results showed all species consumed less deep soil water in 2019 than in 2018 due to the increased precipitation. Peach trees used more shallow soil water compared to walnut and apple trees that used more deep soil water during high water-demanding periods. Walnut trees depended more on deep soil water throughout the growing season, contributing 46.2% in 2018, compared to 26.0% for peach trees and 24.0% for apple trees. Moreover, walnut trees had lower deep soil water and leaf δ13C than peach and apple trees. The findings suggest differences in phenology periods of the three rainfed economic tree species to affect the water source used. The three tree species differed in their water use strategies: walnut trees had ecological plasticity for reducing water stress by absorbing deep soil water, and peach and apple trees had higher water use efficiencies. This study has significance for evaluating water use characteristics and drought stress responses of economic trees in water-limited environments. © 2021
Original languageEnglish
Article number108716
JournalAgricultural and Forest Meteorology
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


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