Advertisement

Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 658–667 | Cite as

Degradation of wetlands on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau: A comparison of the effectiveness of three indicators

  • Jay GaoEmail author
  • Xi-lai Li
  • Alan Cheung
  • Yuan-wu Yang
Open Access
Article

Abstract

The Qinghai-Tibet Plateau encompasses a large quantity of wetlands, some of which have been degraded to varying severity levels. In the literature, a number of degradation indicators have been proposed to evaluate ecological health of wetlands, but their effectiveness in the plateau environment remains unknown. In this study, we assessed the effectiveness of three degradation indicators, soil moisture content at 10 cm deep, vegetative cover, and density of pika burrows. The degradation severity of wetlands in Maduo County on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau is enumerated at four levels, intact, slight, moderate and severe. Analysis of 106 samples collected in the field demonstrates that the density of pika burrows is the least reliable indicator. By comparison, vegetative cover and underlying soil moisture content are more reliable, even though neither is a perfect indicator as the difference among adjacent levels of severity as revealed by t-test is not always statistically significant. The imperfection of vegetative cover as an indicator is due to its variation among different types of wetlands. The limitation of moisture content is attributed to its non-linear relationship with wetland degradation. Above the threshold of about 50% in moisture content wetlands are unlikely to be degraded. It is recommended that moisture be measured at the point near the surface and vegetative cover be further differentiated by species in order to improve their effectiveness.

Keywords

Wetland degradation Grass cover Soil moisture Pika damage Qinghai-Tibet Plateau 

References

  1. Arthur AD, Pech RP, Bu J, et al. (2007) Grassland degradation on the Tibetan Plateau: the role of small mammals and methods of control. Canberra: Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research Technical Reports No. 67, p 35.Google Scholar
  2. Avis CA, Weaver AJ, Meissner KJ (2011) Reduction in areal extent of high-latitude wetlands in response to permafrost thaw. Nature Geoscience 4(7): 444–448. DOI: 10.1038/ngeo1160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Cvetkovic M, Chow-Fraser P (2011) Use of ecological indicators to assess the quality of Great Lakes coastal wetlands. Ecological Indicators 11(6): 1609–1622, DOI: 10.1016/j.ecolind.2011.04.005.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Fan NC, Zhou WY, Wei WH, et al. (1999) Rodent pest management in Qinghai-Tibet alpine meadow ecosystem. In: Singleton GR, Hinds LA, Leirs H, Zhang Z (eds.), Ecologically-based Management of Rodent Pests. Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra, pp 285–304.Google Scholar
  5. Fennessy MS, Jacobs AD, Kentula ME (2007) An evaluation of rapid methods for assessing the ecological condition of wetlands. Wetlands 27(3): 543–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Gao J (2011) Sanjiangyuan wetlands: Introduction and overview. In: Chen G, Li XL, Gao J, Brierley G (eds.) Wetland Types, Evolution and Their Rehabilitation in the Sanjiangyuan Region, Qinghai People’s Press, pp 1–8.Google Scholar
  7. Gao YH, Schumann M, Zeng XY, et al. (2011) Changes of plant communities and soil properties due to degradation of alpine wetlands on the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau. Journal of Environmental Protection and Ecology 12(2): 788–798.Google Scholar
  8. Hou Y, Guo ZG, Lon RJ (2009) Changes of plant community structure and species diversity in degradation process of Shouqu wetland of Yellow River. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology 20(1): 27–32. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  9. Li GQ, Kan AK, Wang XB, et al. (2010) Distribution of degraded wetlands and their influence factors in Qomolangma National Nature Reserve. Wetland Science 8(2): 110–114. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  10. Li M, Xu R, Huang W, et al. (2011) A study on the effects of the surrounding faults on water loss in the Zoige Wetland, China. Journal of Mountain Science 8(4): 518–524. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-011-2060-4.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Li XL, Perry GLW, Brierley G, et al. (2012) Quantitative assessment of degradation classifications for degraded alpine meadows (heitutan), Sanjiangyuan, western China. Land Degradation & Development, DOI: 10.1002/ldr.2154.Google Scholar
  12. Lindig-Cisneros R, Desmond J, Boyer KE, et al. (2003) Wetland restoration thresholds: Can a degradation transition be reversed with increased effort? Ecological Applications 13(1): 193–205. DOI: 10.1890/1051-0761(2003)013[0193:wrtcad]2.0.co;2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Liu C, Xie G, Huang H (2006) Shrinking and drying up of Baiyangdian Lake wetland: A natural or human cause? Chinese Geographical Science 16(4): 314–319. (In Chinese)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Ma K-M, Guo L, Zhang Y (2009) Landscape assessment on wetland degradation during thirty years in Jiansanjiang region of Sanjiang plain, Northeast China. Acta Ecologica Sinica 29(6): 3126–3135. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  15. Miehe G, Miehe S, Bach K, et al. (2011) Plant communities of central Tibetan pastures in the Alpine Steppe/Kobresia pygmaea ecotone. Journal of Arid Environments 75(8): 711–723. DOI: 10.1016/j.aridenv.2011.03.001.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Qi DC, Li GY (2007) Status, causes and protection countermeasures of wetland degradation in Maqu county in the Upper Yellow River. Wetland Science 5(4): 341–347. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  17. Teferi E, Uhlenbrook S, Bewket W, et al. (2010) The use of remote sensing to quantify wetland loss in the Choke Mountain range, Upper Blue Nile basin, Ethiopia. Hydrology and Earth System Sciences 14(12): 2415–2428. DOI: 10.5194/hessd-7-6243-2010.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Van Dam RA, Camilleri C, Finlayson CM (1998) The potential of rapid assessment techniques as early warning indicators of wetland degradation: A review. Environmental Toxicology and Water Quality 13(4): 297–312. DOI: 10.1002/(SICI)1098-2256(1998)13:4〈297::AIDTOX3〉3.0.CO;2-2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Wang G, Li Y, Wang Y, et al. (2007) Typical alpine wetland system changes on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in recent 40 years. Acta Geographica Sinica 62(5): 481–491. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  20. Wang Y, Zhou D, Sun Y (2011). Assessment of the ecological health of wetlands in Honghe supported by RS and GIS techniques. Acta Ecologica Sinica 31(13): 3590–3602. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  21. Wu SS, Zhang ZL, Chen M, et al. (2009) Change of coastal wetlands and analysis of its driving reasons along south coast of the Laizhou Bay. Wetland Science 7(4): 373–378. (In Chinese)Google Scholar
  22. Zebardast L, Jafari HR (2011) Use of remote sensing in monitoring the trend of changes in Anzali wetland in Iran and proposing environmental management solution. Journal of Environmental Studies 37(57): 57–64.Google Scholar
  23. Zhang Y, Wang G, Wang Y (2011) Changes in alpine wetland ecosystems of the Qinghai-Tibetan plateau from 1967 to 2004. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment 180(1-4): 189–199, DOI: 10.1007/s10661-010-1781-0.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Zhang ZQ, Zhou DM, Luan ZQ, et al. (2010) A study on quantification and spatial-temporal patterns of wetlands soil moisture. European Space Agency (Special Publication) ESA SP, Volume 684 SP, p 8.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of EnvironmentUniversity of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand
  2. 2.College of Agriculture and Animal HusbandryQinghai UniversityXiningChina

Personalised recommendations