Climatic Change

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 197–212

Effects of rainfall amount and frequency on vegetation growth in a Tibetan alpine meadow


DOI: 10.1007/s10584-012-0622-2

Cite this article as:
Zhang, B., Cao, J., Bai, Y. et al. Climatic Change (2013) 118: 197. doi:10.1007/s10584-012-0622-2


Over the past decades, rainfall amount and frequency changed considerably on the Tibetan Plateau. However, how altered rainfall pattern affects vegetation growth and phenology in Tibetan alpine grasslands is poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the long-term effects of rainfall amount and frequency on production (i.e., aboveground biomass, AGB) and phenology of three perennial plants in a Tibetan alpine meadow from 1994 to 2005. Growth period (i.e., the dates from greening to senescence) was referred to plant phenology here. Our results showed that annual precipitation and total rainfall from large events (≥ 5 mm per day) were mainly distributed in the growing season, which increased significantly from 1994 to 2005 with more increment in May and July (p < 0.05). Total AGB and growth periods of three plants were linearly correlated with annual precipitation and total rainfall from large events, but have insignificant correlations with total rainfall from small events (< 5 mm per day) and rainfall frequency (including small, large, and all events). The results suggest that aboveground plant production and phenology are more sensitive to changes in large rainfall events (≥ 5 mm per day) than small events (< 5 mm per day) in the alpine meadow ecosystems.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Lab of Loess and Quaternary Geology, Institute of Earth EnvironmentChinese Academy of SciencesXi’anChina
  2. 2.Coastal Ecosystems Research Station of the Yangtze River Estuary, Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Biodiversity Science and Ecological Engineering, The Institute of Biodiversity ScienceFudan UniversityShanghaiChina
  3. 3.Cold and Arid Regions Environmental and Engineering Research InstituteChinese Academy of SciencesLanzhouChina
  4. 4.Shaanxi Changqing National Natural ReserveYang CountyChina
  5. 5.College of Agriculture and life sciencesAnkang UniversityAnkangChina