Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 69, Issue 1, pp 235–245 | Cite as

The relationship of vegetation and soil differentiation during the formation of black-soil-type degraded meadows in the headwater of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China

  • Guohua Ren
  • Zhanhuan Shang
  • Ruijun LongEmail author
  • Yuan Hou
  • Bin Deng
Original Article


In alpine meadow ecosystems, considerable spatial heterogeneity in forb-dominant vegetation exists as a result of severe grassland degeneration; however, there is limited quantitative information on the vegetative differences between degenerated and pristine grasslands. Therefore, a field study, which seeks to identify the edaphic factors driving the variation in plant composition and distribution, was conducted in a severely degraded alpine meadow located in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, NW China. Five meadows, an original meadow and four degraded meadows, were used to determine the differentiation and relationships between the vegetation and soil of degraded alpine meadows. The dominated species of these degraded meadows are Ligularia virgaureaArtemisia gmelinii (LA), Oxytropis ochrocephalaLeontopodium nanum (OL), Aconitum pendulumPotentilla anserina (AP) and Stellera chamaejasmeArtemisia nanschanica (SA), respectively. The results indicate that vegetation cover, grass biomass, species number and diversity indices clearly decrease from the original to the degraded meadow. Soil water, clay and nutrient content are also reduced with grassland degradation in surface and subsoil layers. The joint study of floristic and edaphic variables confirms that the soil features, especially the bulk density, sand content, pH, salinity, N and K, mainly determine the establishment of vegetation in the severely degraded fields of this study. These results may be useful for alpine grassland ecosystem restoration and management.


Community Soil properties Dissimilation Degraded meadow The Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau 



Ligularia virgaureaArtemisia gmelinii meadow


Oxytropis ochrocephalaLeontopodium nanum meadow


Aconitum pendulumPotentilla anserina meadow


Stellera chamaejasmeArtemisia nanschanica meadow


Aboveground biomass


Percent forbs biomass


Richness index


Shannon-Wiener diversity index


Evenness index


Soil water content


Bulk density


Electric conductivity


Organic matter



We are most grateful to Dr. James W. LaMoreaux for his constructive comments on the manuscript. We also would like to thank the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. This work was financed by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41171417; 30730069).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Guohua Ren
    • 1
    • 2
  • Zhanhuan Shang
    • 2
  • Ruijun Long
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Yuan Hou
    • 2
  • Bin Deng
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Life SciencesLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.International Center for Tibetan Plateau Ecosystem ManagementLanzhou UniversityLanzhouChina

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