Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 13, Issue 5, pp 811–821 | Cite as

Controls of seed quantity and quality on seedling recruitment of smith fir along altitudinal gradient in southeastern Tibetan Plateau

  • Jing-sheng Wang
  • Ji-guang Feng
  • Bao-xiong Chen
  • Pei-li ShiEmail author
  • Jun-long Zhang
  • Jiang-ping Fang
  • Zhi-kai Wang
  • Shuai-chen Yao
  • Lu-bin Ding


Alpine treeline ecotones are harsh environment for tree establishment due to low temperature. Tree establishment at treelines requires favorable climate, suitable microsites, and viable seeds. But most researches have been addressed treeline microclimate and its effects on tree regeneration, the knowledge of seed quantity and quality and its controls on seedling recruitment were limited. We measured seed rain, soil seed bank, seed germination rate and seedling recruitment in natural forests in combination with seed transplanting manipulation to evaluate the controls of seed quantity and quality on seedling recruitment of Abies georgei var. smithii (smith fir) along altitudinal gradient, with focus on treeline ecotone in the Sygera Mountains, southeastern Tibetan Plateau. Both seed quantity and seed quality of smith fir decreased with increasing altitude and was thereby associated with decline in seed germination rate. Seed quantity and seedling recruitment were better in north-facing slope than in south slope. The treeline ecotone above 4200 m appeared as the threshold altitude to sharply decrease seed quality and seedling recruitment. The emergence and overwintering rates of transplanting seeds from 3600−3800 m also went down remarkably above 4200 m at north-facing slope. It also underpins the fact that treeline ecotone is the bottleneck of seedling recruitment. Our results suggest that seed quantity and quality are the principal limitation of treeline upward advance. This study also provides evidence to support stable treeline position in southeastern Tibetan Plateau.


Abies georgei var. smithii Treeline Seed rain Soil seed bank Seed quality Seedling recruitment 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jing-sheng Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ji-guang Feng
    • 2
  • Bao-xiong Chen
    • 3
  • Pei-li Shi
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jun-long Zhang
    • 4
  • Jiang-ping Fang
    • 5
  • Zhi-kai Wang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Shuai-chen Yao
    • 2
  • Lu-bin Ding
    • 2
  1. 1.Lhasa Plateau Ecosystem Research Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.School of Environment and Natural ResourcesRenmin University of ChinaBeijingChina
  3. 3.Rural Energy & Environment AgencyMinistry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of ChinaBeijingChina
  4. 4.National Center for Climate Change Strategy and International CooperationBeijingChina
  5. 5.Tibet Agricultural and Animal Husbandry CollegeTibet LinzhiChina

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