Sciences in Cold and Arid Regions ›› 2016, Vol. 8 ›› Issue (6): 495-506.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1226.2016.00495

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Comparison of soil physico-chemical properties under different land-use and cover types in northeastern China's Horqin Sandy Land

YuQiang Li1, JianPeng Zhang1, XueYong Zhao1, TongHui Zhang1, YuLin Li1, XinPing Liu1, YinPing Chen2   

  1. 1. Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China;
    2. School of Environmental and Municipal Engineering, Lanzhou Jiaotong University, Lanzhou, Gansu 730070, China
  • Received:2016-04-28 Revised:2016-06-20 Published:2018-11-23
  • Contact: Ph.D., YuQiang Li, Northwest Institute of Eco-Environment and Resources, Chinese Academy of Sciences. No. 320, West Donggang Road, Lanzhou, Gansu 730000, China. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    This study was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41401109), the Foundation for Excellent Youth Scholars of CAREERI, CAS (No. Y551D21001), and the Open Fund Project of the Key Laboratory of Desert and Desertification, CAS (No. Y452J71001). The authors would like to thank Enago ( for the English language review.

Abstract: The Horqin Sandy Land of northeastern China was originally a grassland with plenty of water and lush vegetation dominated by palatable grass species along with sparsely scattered woody species. However, it has experienced severe desertification in recent decades due to its fragile ecology together with inappropriate human activities. Currently, the landscape of the Horqin Sandy Land is dominated by irrigated croplands and sand dunes with different degrees of vegetation cover, as the region has become the most important part of the semiarid agro-pastoral ecotone of northern China. In this study, we compared soil physical and chemical properties under different land-use and cover types (irrigated cropland, rainfed cropland, sandy grassland, fixed dunes, and mobile dunes). We found that soil particle size distribution; organic C, total N, and total mineral element, microelement, and available microelement and nutrient contents; pH; CEC; and bulk density differed significantly among the land-use and cover types. In general, soil quality was highest in the cropland, intermediate in the sandy grassland, and lowest in the dunes. The most important soil quality attribute, soil organic carbon (SOC) storage, decreased in the following order: irrigated cropland (5,699 g/m2) > sandy grassland (3,390 g/m2) > rainfed cropland (2,411 g/m2) > fixed dunes (821 g/m2) > mobile dunes (463 g/m2). SOC was significantly positively correlated with a large proportion of the other soil physico-chemical parameters. Our results suggest that the key issue in restoration of the degraded soils will be to increase SOC storage, which would also create a high potential for sequestering soil C in desertified areas of the Horqin Sandy Land.

Key words: land use, land cover, soil properties, desertification, Horqin Sandy Land

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