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Root biomass distribution in alpine ecosystems of the northern Tibetan Plateau

Abstract

The root biomass distribution in alpine ecosystems (alpine meadow, alpine steppe, desert grassland and alpine desert) was investigated along a transect on the northern Tibetan Plateau in 2009. The results showed that roots were mainly concentrated in the 0–20 cm layer, and root biomass decreased exponentially with increasing soil depth. Root biomass was estimated to be 1,381.41 ± 245.29 g m−2 in the top 20 cm soil, accounting for 85% of the total root biomass. The distribution pattern of the root biomass proportion along the soil profile was similar in different alpine ecosystems. The root biomass density varied with different alpine ecosystems and the total average root biomass was 1,626.08 ± 301.76 g m−2. Root biomass was significantly correlated with average relative humidity, annual precipitation and soil organic matter. This indicates that precipitation and soil organic matter might be crucial for plant growth in the study area, while temperature is not an important factor controlling root growth.

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Acknowledgments

This research was supported by the National Key Basic Research Development Program of China (Grant No. 2010CB951704) and the National Science and Technology Support Program of China (Grant No. 2007BAC06B01). We are grateful to Guohui Zhong and his team for conducting indoor soil experiments and to our colleagues for collecting samples. We also thank Junxi Wu and Yuqiang Tian for their suggestions and comments.

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Correspondence to Xianzhou Zhang.

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Li, X., Zhang, X., Wu, J. et al. Root biomass distribution in alpine ecosystems of the northern Tibetan Plateau. Environ Earth Sci 64, 1911–1919 (2011). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-011-1004-1

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s12665-011-1004-1

Keywords

  • Alpine ecosystem
  • Environmental factors
  • Northern Tibetan Plateau
  • Root biomass