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Ronny Berndtsson

Professor, Dep Director, MECW Dep Scientific Coordinator

Profile photo of Ronny Berndtsson

Effects of surface characteristics on infiltration patterns in an arid shrub desert


  • Xin-Ping Wang
  • Hong-Lang Xiao
  • Ronny Berndtsson
  • Yan-Xia Pan
  • Xin-Rong Li

Summary, in English

Precipitation is often the sole source of water replenishment in arid and semi-arid areas and, thus, plays a pertinent role in sustaining desert ecosystems. Revegetation over 40 years using mainly Artemisia ordosica and Caragana korshinskii at Shapotou Desert Experimental Research Station near Lanzhou, China, has established a dwarf-shrub and microbiotic soil crust cover on the stabilized sand dunes. The redistribution of infiltrated moisture through percolation, root extraction, and evapotranspiration pathways was investigated. Three sets of time-domain reflectometry (TDR) probes were inserted horizontally at 5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 40 cm depths below the ground surface in a soil pit. The three sets of TDR probes were installed in dwarf-shrub sites of A. ordosica and C. korshinskii community with and without a microbiotic soil crust cover, and an additional set was placed in a bare sand dune area that had neither vegetation nor a microbiotic soil crust present. Volumetric soil moisture content was recorded at hourly intervals and used in the assessment of infiltration for the different surface covers. Infiltration varied greatly, from 7.5 cm to more than 45 cm, depending upon rainfall quantity and soil surface conditions. In the shrub community area without microbiotic soil crust cover, infiltration increased due to preferential flow associated with root tunnels. The microbiotic soil crust cover had a significant negative influence on the infiltration for small rainfall events (similar10 mm), restricting the infiltration depth to less than 20 cm and increasing soil moisture content just beneath the soil profile of 10 cm, whereas it was not as strong or clear for larger rainfall events (similar60 mm). For small rainfall events, the wetting front depth for the three kinds of surface cover was as follows: shrub community without microbiotic soil crust > bare area > shrub community with microbiotic soil crust. In contrast, for large rainfall events, infiltration was similar in shrub communities with and without microbiotic soil crust cover, but significantly higher than measured in the bare area. Soil water extraction by roots associated with evapotranspiration restricted the wetting front penetration after 1 to 3 h of rainfall. Copyright © 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.


  • Division of Water Resources Engineering

Publishing year







Hydrological Processes





Document type

Journal article


John Wiley & Sons Inc.


  • Water Engineering


  • Tengger Desert
  • soil moisture
  • desert ecosystem
  • infiltration
  • revegetation
  • dwarf-shrub-stabilized sand dune
  • Shapotou
  • microbiotic soil crust




  • ISSN: 1099-1085