Journal of Geographical Sciences

, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 269–287 | Cite as

Spatial and temporal variability in the net primary production of alpine grassland on the Tibetan Plateau since 1982

  • Yili ZhangEmail author
  • Wei Qi
  • Caiping Zhou
  • Mingjun Ding
  • Linshan Liu
  • Jungang Gao
  • Wanqi Bai
  • Zhaofeng Wang
  • Du Zheng


Based on the GIMMS AVHRR NDVI data (8 km spatial resolution) for 1982–2000, the SPOT VEGETATION NDVI data (1 km spatial resolution) for 1998–2009, and observational plant biomass data, the CASA model was used to model changes in alpine grassland net primary production (NPP) on the Tibetan Plateau (TP). This study will help to evaluate the health conditions of the alpine grassland ecosystem, and is of great importance to the promotion of sustainable development of plateau pasture and to the understanding of the function of the national ecological security shelter on the TP. The spatio-temporal characteristics of NPP change were investigated using spatial statistical analysis, separately on the basis of physico-geographical factors (natural zone, altitude, latitude and longitude), river basin, and county-level administrative area. Data processing was carried out using an ENVI 4.8 platform, while an ArcGIS 9.3 and ANUSPLIN platform was used to conduct the spatial analysis and mapping. The primary results are as follows: (1) The NPP of alpine grassland on the TP gradually decreases from the southeast to the northwest, which corresponds to gradients in precipitation and temperature. From 1982 to 2009, the average annual total NPP in the TP alpine grassland was 177.2×1012 gC yr−1(yr represents year), while the average annual NPP was 120.8 gC m−2 yr−1. (2) The annual NPP in alpine grassland on the TP fluctuates from year to year but shows an overall positive trend ranging from 114.7 gC m−2 yr−1 in 1982 to 129.9 gC m−2 yr−1 in 2009, with an overall increase of 13.3%; 32.56% of the total alpine grassland on the TP showed a significant increase in NPP, while only 5.55% showed a significant decrease over this 28-year period. (3) Spatio-temporal characteristics are an important control on annual NPP in alpine grassland: a) NPP increased in most of the natural zones on the TP, only showing a slight decrease in the Ngari montane desert-steppe and desert zone. The positive trend in NPP in the high-cold shrub-meadow zone, high-cold meadow steppe zone and high-cold steppe zone is more significant than that of the high-cold desert zone; b) with increasing altitude, the percentage area with a positive trend in annual NPP follows a trend of “increasing-stable-decreasing”, while the percentage area with a negative trend in annual NPP follows a trend of “decreasing-stable-increasing”, with increasing altitude; c) the variation in annual NPP with latitude and longitude co-varies with the vegetation distribution; d) the variation in annual NPP within the major river basins has a generally positive trend, of which the growth in NPP in the Yellow River Basin is most significant. Results show that, based on changes in NPP trends, vegetation coverage and phonological phenomenon with time, NPP has been declining in certain places successively, while the overall health of the alpine grassland on the TP is improving.


Tibetan Plateau net primary production CASA model spatio-temporal patterns NPP trends 


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Copyright information

© Science Press and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Yili Zhang
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wei Qi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Caiping Zhou
    • 1
  • Mingjun Ding
    • 1
    • 3
  • Linshan Liu
    • 1
  • Jungang Gao
    • 1
  • Wanqi Bai
    • 1
  • Zhaofeng Wang
    • 1
  • Du Zheng
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchCASBeijingChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.Jiangxi Normal UniversityNanchangChina

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