Small-scale variation in ecosystem CO2 fluxes in an alpine meadow depends on plant biomass and species richness

Abstract

Characterizing the spatial variation in the CO2 flux at both large and small scales is essential for precise estimation of an ecosystem’s CO2 sink strength. However, little is known about small-scale CO2 flux variations in an ecosystem. We explored these variations in a Kobresia meadow ecosystem on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau in relation to spatial variability in species composition and biomass. We established 14 points and measured net ecosystem production (NEP), gross primary production (GPP), and ecosystem respiration (Re) in relation to vegetation biomass, species richness, and environmental variables at each point, using an automated chamber system during the 2005 growing season. Mean light-saturated NEP and GPP were 30.3 and 40.5 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1 [coefficient of variation (CV), 42.7 and 29.4], respectively. Mean Re at 20°C soil temperature, Re20, was −10.9 μmol CO2 m−2 s−1 (CV, 27.3). Re20 was positively correlated with vegetation biomass. GPPmax was positively correlated with species richness, but 2 of the 14 points were outliers. Vegetation biomass was the main determinant of spatial variation of Re, whereas species richness mainly affected that of GPP, probably reflecting the complexity of canopy structure and light partitioning in this small grassland patch.

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Acknowledgments

We thank Professor Jingyun Fang and Associate Professor Wei Wang at the Peking University for providing fieldwork support and technical assistance. This study was part of a joint research project between the National Institute for Environmental Studies, Japan, and the Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, China, as part of the “Integrated Study for Terrestrial Carbon Management of Asia in the 21st Century Based on Scientific Advancements” and “Early Detection and Prediction of Climate Warming Based on the Long-Term Monitoring of Alpine Ecosystems on the Tibetan Plateau” projects. This study was supported by the One Hundred Talent Project (0429091211), by Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS; No. 18710017), and by the JSPS-KOSEF-NSFC A3 Foresight Program (Quantifying and Predicting Terrestrial Carbon Sinks in East Asia: Toward a Network of Climate Change Research).

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Correspondence to Mitsuru Hirota.

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Hirota, M., Zhang, P., Gu, S. et al. Small-scale variation in ecosystem CO2 fluxes in an alpine meadow depends on plant biomass and species richness. J Plant Res 123, 531–541 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10265-010-0315-8

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Keywords

  • Ecosystem CO2 flux
  • Ecosystem structure and functioning
  • Spatial heterogeneity
  • Species richness
  • Qinghai-Tibetan plateau