Reaumuria songarica (Pall.) Maxim and Nitraria tangutorum Bobr. are two species growing on nebkhas in dune system. But N. tangutorum distributes more widely than R. songarica does. Sand burial and drought are two major disturbing factors in the field. Experiments were conducted under controlled conditions to investigate sand burial depth and simulated precipitation amount on seed germination, seedling emergence and seedling mass of the two shrubs to explain the dominance of N. tangutorum over R. songarica. Seeds were buried at 6 depths (0, 0.5, 1.5, 3, 5, 8 cm) and irrigated with 3 water regimes (5, 7, 10 mm) in plastic pots (8 cm in diameter and 11 cm in height) under the same light intensity and alternating temperature in an environment controlled growth chamber. R. songarica has a greater germination percentage than N. tangutorum under each burial depth with any water regime. R songarica seed germination increased with burial depth at each water regime and when depth is deeper than 1.5 cm all the seeds germinated under 7 and 10 mm water treatment. N. tangutorum seed germination increased until an optimal burial depth and then decreased. The optimal burial depth shifts with water regime. Seedling emergence of R songarica did not occur at depth deeper than 1.5 cm under any water regime. N. tangutorum seedling emergence maximized at 3, 1.5 and 0.5 cm with 5, 7 and 10 mm water supply regime respectively. Under all the treatments, N. tangutorum seedlings had larger dry mass than R. songarica seedlings. Higher N. tangutorum seedling emergence percentage and seedling mass with given water supply enhance its possibility to appear on nebkhas in the study area.