Using the Electromagnetic Induction Method to Connect Spatial Vegetation Distributions with Soil Water and Salinity Dynamics on Steppe Grassland

Friday, 19 December 2014
Zhiyun Jiang, Xiaoyan Li and Huawu Wu, Beijing Normal University, Beijing, China
In arid and semi-arid areas, plant growth and productivity are obviously affected by soil water and salinity. But it is not easy to acquire the spatial and temporal dynamics of soil water and salinity by traditional field methods because of the heterogeneity in their patterns. Electromagnetic induction (EMI), for its rapid character, can provide a useful way to solve this problem. Grassland dominated by Achnatherum splendens is an important ecosystem near the Qinghai-Lake watershed on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in northwestern China. EMI surveys were conducted for electrical conductivity (ECa) at an intermediate habitat scale (a 60×60 m experimental area) of A. splendens steppe for 18 times (one day only for one time) during the 2013 growing season. And twenty sampling points were established for the collection of soil samples for soil water and salinity, which were used for calibration of ECa. In addition, plant species, biomass and spatial patterns of vegetation were also sampled. The results showed that ECa maps exhibited distinctly spatial differences because of variations in soil moisture. And soil water was the main factor to drive salinity patterns, which in turn affected ECa values. Moreover, soil water and salinity could explain 82.8% of ECa changes due to there was a significant correlation (P<0.01) between ECa, soil water and salinity. Furthermore, with higher ECa values closer to A. splendens patches at the experimental site, patterns of ECa images showed clearly temporal stability, which were extremely corresponding with the spatial pattern of vegetation. A. splendens patches that accumulated infiltrating water and salinity and thus changed long-term soil properties, which were considered as “reservoirs” and were deemed responsible for the temporal stability of ECa images. Hence, EMI could be an indicator to locate areas of decreasing or increasing of water and to reveal soil water and salinity dynamics through repeated ECa surveys.