Science in China Series C: Life Sciences

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 86–94 | Cite as

Changes in plant biomass and species composition of alpine Kobresia meadows along altitudinal gradient on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

  • Wang ChangTing 
  • Cao GuangMin 
  • Wang QiLan 
  • Jing ZengChun 
  • Ding LuMing 
  • Long RuiJun 


Alpine Kobresia meadows are major vegetation types on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. There is growing concern over their relationships among biodiversity, productivity and environments. Despite the importance of species composition, species richness, the type of different growth forms, and plant biomass structure for Kobresia meadow ecosystems, few studies have been focused on the relationship between biomass and environmental gradient in the Kobresia meadow plant communities, particularly in relation to soil moisture and edaphic gradients. We measured the plant species composition, herbaceous litter, aboveground and belowground biomass in three Kobresia meadow plant communities in Haibei Alpine Meadow Ecosystem Research Station from 2001 to 2004. Community differences in plant species composition were reflected in biomass distribution. The total biomass showed a decrease from 13196.96±719.69 g/m2 in the sedge-dominated K. tibetica swamp to 2869.58±147.52 g/m2 in the forb and sedge dominated K. pygmaea meadow, and to 2153.08±141.95 g/m2 in the forbs and grasses dominated K. humilis along with the increase of altitude. The vertical distribution of belowground biomass is distinct in the three meadow communities, and the belowground biomass at the depth of 0–10 cm in K. tibetica swamp meadow was significantly higher than that in K. humilis and K. pygmaea meadows (P<0.01). The herbaceous litter in K. tibetica swamp was significantly higher than those in K. pygnaeca and K. humilis meadows. The effects of plant litter are enhanced when ground water and soil moisture levels are raised. The relative importance of litter and vegetation may vary with soil water availability. In the K. tibetica swamp, total biomass was negatively correlated to species richness (P<0.05); aboveground biomass was positively correlated to soil organic matter, soil moisture, and plant cover (P<0.05); belowground biomass was positively correlated with soil moisture (P<0.05). However, in the K. pygnaeca and K. humilis meadow communities, aboveground biomass was positively correlated to soil organic matter and soil total nitrogen (P<0.05). This suggests that the distribution of biomass coincided with soil moisture and edaphic gradient in alpine meadows.


plant species richness plant litter aboveground biomass belowground biomass soil moisture alpine meadow 


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Copyright information

© Science in China Press 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wang ChangTing 
    • 1
    • 3
  • Cao GuangMin 
    • 1
  • Wang QiLan 
    • 1
  • Jing ZengChun 
    • 1
  • Ding LuMing 
    • 1
  • Long RuiJun 
    • 2
  1. 1.Northwest Institute of Plateau BiologyChinese Academy of SciencesXiningChina
  2. 2.College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and TechnologyLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Graduate University of the Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina

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