Aboveground dominant functional group predicts belowground properties in an alpine grassland community of western China
- First Online:
- Cite this article as:
- Wu, G., Li, W., Shi, Z. et al. J Soils Sediments (2011) 11: 1011. doi:10.1007/s11368-011-0367-y
- 247 Views
It has been suggested that above and belowground interactions produce important feedbacks in natural ecosystems. It is necessary to study the relationships between aboveground plant functional group traits and belowground biomass and soil chemical properties in natural grasslands.
Materials and methods
In a field study, four natural alpine meadows dominated by different plant functional groups were selected. We assigned the plant species to one of two functional groups: the grasses functional group (GFG) or the forbs functional group (FFG). The aboveground GFG and FFG biomass and total belowground biomass were measured. At the same time, for each sampling quadrat, soil pH, soil organic matter (SOM), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (AN), total phosphorus (TP), and available phosphorus (AP) were determined.
Results and discussion
GFG-dominated meadows had significantly higher total belowground biomass, SOM, TN, TP, AN, and AP than FFG-dominated meadows. Correlation analyses showed that total belowground biomass (to a depth of 30 cm) and soil nutrient contents were significantly and positively correlated with the GFG biomass proportion, but negatively correlated with the FFG biomass proportion.
There were significant positive correlations among above and belowground biomass and the soil chemical properties studied. The GFG proportion may thus be an indicator of soil chemical properties in the studied meadow types. This implies that natural increases in, or introduction of more, GFG species in FFG-dominated meadows may improve soil nutrient conditions. This study provides the basis of understanding for future studies on plant–soil interactions and feedbacks in grassland ecosystems.