Skip to main content

Effects of soil nutrients and climate factors on belowground biomass in an alpine meadow in the source region of the Yangtze-Yellow rivers, Tibetan Plateau of China

Abstract

Improving our knowledge of the effects of environmental factors (e.g. soil conditions, precipitation and temperature) on belowground biomass in an alpine grassland is essential for understanding the consequences of carbon storage in this biome. The object of this study is to investigate the relative importance of soil nutrients and climate factors on belowground biomass in an alpine meadow in the source region of the Yangtze and Yellow rivers, Tibetan Plateau. Soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN) and total phosphorous (TP) contents and belowground biomass were measured at 22 sampling sites across an alpine meadow on the Tibetan Plateau. We analyzed the data by using the redundancy analysis to determine the main environmental factors affecting the belowground biomass and the contribution of each factor. The results showed that SOC, TN and TP were the main factors that influenced belowground biomass, and the contribution of SOC, TN and TP on biomass was in the range of 47.87%–72.06% at soil depths of 0–30 cm. Moreover, the combined contribution of annual mean temperature (AMT) and mean annual precipitation (MAP) on belowground biomass ranged from 0.92% to 4.10%. A potential mechanism for the differences in belowground biomass was caused by the variations in soil nitrogen and phosphorous, which were coupled with SOC. A significant correlation was observed between MAP and soil nutrients (SOC, TN and TP) at the soil depth of 0–10 cm (P<0.05). We concluded that precipitation is an important driving force in regulating ecosystem functioning as reflected in variations of soil nutrients (SOC, TN and TP) and dynamics of belowground biomass in alpine grassland ecosystems.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

References

  • Ambebe T F, Dang Q L. 2009. Low moisture availability inhibits the enhancing effect of increased soil temperature on net photosynthesis of white birch (Betula papyrifera) seedlings grown under ambient and elevated carbon dioxide concentrations. Tree Physiology, 29(11): 1341–1348.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bai W M, Wan S Q, Niu S L, et al. 2010. Increased temperature and precipitation interact to affect root production, mortality, and turnover in a temperate steppe: implications for ecosystem C cycling. Global Change Biology, 16(4): 1306–1316.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Blue J D, Souza L, Classen A T, et al. 2011. The variable effects of soil nitrogen availability and insect herbivory on aboveground and belowground plant biomass in an old-field ecosystem. Oecologia, 167(3): 771–780.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chang R Y, Jin T T, Lü Y H, et al. 2014. Soil carbon and nitrogen changes following afforestation of marginal cropland across a precipitation gradient in loess plateau of China. PLoS ONE, 9(1): e85426, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085426.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Chen Y C, Sun J, Xie F T, et al. 2015. Litter chemical structure is more important than species richness in affecting soil carbon and nitrogen dynamics including gas emissions from an alpine soil. Biology and Fertility of Soils, 51(7): 791–800.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Copeland S M, Bruna E M, Silva L V B, et al. 2012. Short-term effects of elevated precipitation and nitrogen on soil fertility and plant growth in a Neotropical savanna. Ecosphere, 3(4), doi: 10.1890/ES11-00305.1.

    Google Scholar 

  • de Dios V R, Turnbull M H, Barbour M M, et al. 2013. Soil phosphorous and endogenous rhythms exert a larger impact than CO2 or temperature on nocturnal stomatal conductance in Eucalyptus tereticornis. Tree Physiology, 33(11): 1206–1215.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dessureault-Rompré J, Zebarth B J, Georgallas A, et al. 2010. Temperature dependence of soil nitrogen mineralization rate: Comparison of mathematical models, reference temperatures and origin of the soils. Geoderma, 157(3–4): 97–108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dong Q M, Li Q Y, Ma Y S, et al. 2002. Effect of grazing intensity on bio-mass above ground and vegetation structure in summer alpine meadow. Qinghai Prataculture, 11(2): 8–10, 49. (in Chinese)

    Google Scholar 

  • Dong S K, Wen L, Li Y Y, et al. 2012. Soil-quality effects of grassland degradation and restoration on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 76(6): 2256–2264.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ettema C H, Wardle D A. 2002. Spatial soil ecology. Trends in Ecology & Evolution, 17(4): 177–183.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fan M J, Song C H, Dettman D L, et al. 2006. Intensification of the Asian winter monsoon after 7.4 Ma: Grain-size evidence from the Linxia basin, northeastern Tibetan Plateau, 13.1 Ma to 4.3 Ma. Earth and Planetary Science Letters, 248(1–2): 186–197.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fang J Y, Yang Y H, Ma W H, et al. 2010. Ecosystem carbon stocks and their changes in China’s grasslands. Science China Life Sciences, 53(7): 757–765.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Figueiredo N, Carranca C, Goufo P, et al. 2015. Impact of agricultural practices, elevated temperature and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration on nitrogen and pH dynamics in soil and floodwater during the seasonal rice growth in Portugal. Soil and Tillage Research, 145: 198–207.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Frøseth R B, Bleken M A. 2015. Effect of low temperature and soil type on the decomposition rate of soil organic carbon and clover leaves, and related priming effect. Soil Biology and Biochemistry, 80: 156–166.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Gabarrón-Galeote M A, Trigalet S, van Wesemael B. 2015. Soil organic carbon evolution after land abandonment along a precipitation gradient in southern Spain. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 199: 114–123.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Geng Y, Wang Y, Yang K, et al. 2012. Soil respiration in Tibetan alpine grasslands: belowground biomass and soil moisture, but not soil temperature, best explain the large-scale patterns. PLoS ONE, 7(4): e34968, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0034968.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hassan W, Bano R, Khatak B U, et al. 2015. Temperature sensitivity and soil organic carbon pools decomposition under different moisture regimes: Effect on total microbial and enzymatic activity. CLEAN-Soil, Air, Water, 43(3): 391–398.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • He N P, Wu L, Wang Y S, et al. 2009. Changes in carbon and nitrogen in soil particle-size fractions along a grassland restoration chronosequence in northern China. Geoderma, 150(3–4): 302–308.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • He N P, Chen Q S, Han X G, et al. 2012. Warming and increased precipitation individually influence soil carbon sequestration of Inner Mongolian grasslands, China. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 158: 184–191.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hui D F, Jackson R B. 2006. Geographical and interannual variability in biomass partitioning in grassland ecosystems: a synthesis of field data. New Phytologist, 169(1): 85–93.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jobbágy E G, Sala O E. 2000. Controls of grass and shrub aboveground production in the Patagonian steppe. Ecological Applications, 10(2): 541–549.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Kang M Y, Dai C, Ji W Y, et al. 2013. Biomass and its allocation in relation to temperature, precipitation, and soil nutrients in Inner Mongolia grasslands, China. PLoS ONE, 8(7): e69561, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0069561.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Klopfenstein S T, Hirmas D R, Johnson W C. 2015. Relationships between soil organic carbon and precipitation along a climosequence in loess-derived soils of the Central Great Plains, USA. CATENA, 133: 25–34.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li Y Y, Dong S K, Wen L, et al. 2013. The effects of fencing on carbon stocks in the degraded alpine grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Environmental Management, 128: 393–399.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Li Y Y, Dong S K, Wen L, et al. 2014. Soil carbon and nitrogen pools and their relationship to plant and soil dynamics of degraded and artificially restored grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Geoderma, 213: 178–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liu L S, Zhang Y L, Bai W Q, et al. 2006. Characteristics of grassland degradation and driving forces in the source region of the Yellow River from 1985 to 2000. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 16(2): 131–142.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liu M, Liu G H, Gong L, et al. 2014. Relationships of biomass with environmental factors in the grassland area of Hulunbuir, China. PLoS ONE, 9(7): e102344, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0102344.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lu X Y, Yan Y, Sun J, et al. 2015. Carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorus storage in alpine grassland ecosystems of Tibet: effects of grazing exclusion. Ecology and Evolution, 5(19): 4492–4504.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ma C B, Stern D I. 2008. Biomass and China’s carbon emissions: A missing piece of carbon decomposition. Energy Policy, 36(7): 2517–2526.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Meng Q F, Sun Y T, Zhao J, et al. 2014. Distribution of carbon and nitrogen in water-stable aggregates and soil stability under long-term manure application in solonetzic soils of the Songnen plain, northeast China. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 14(6): 1041–1049.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mokany K, Raison R J, Prokushkin A S. 2006. Critical analysis of root: shoot ratios in terrestrial biomes. Global Change Biology, 12(1): 84–96.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Roa-Fuentes L L, Hidalgo C, Etchevers J D, et al. 2013. The effects of precipitation regime on soil carbon pools on the Yucatan Peninsula. Journal of Tropical Ecology, 29(5): 463–466.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sanaullah M, Chabbi A, Girardin C, et al. 2014. Effects of drought and elevated temperature on biochemical composition of forage plants and their impact on carbon storage in grassland soil. Plant and Soil, 374(1–2): 767–778.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Schenk H J, Jackson R B. 2005. Mapping the global distribution of deep roots in relation to climate and soil characteristics. Geoderma, 126(1–2): 129–140.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Shang Z H, Cao J J, Guo R Y, et al. 2014. The response of soil organic carbon and nitrogen 10 years after returning cultivated alpine steppe to grassland by abandonment or reseeding. CATENA, 119: 28–35.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sun J, Cheng G W, Li W P. 2013a. Meta-analysis of relationships between environmental factors and aboveground biomass in the alpine grassland on the Tibetan Plateau. Biogeosciences, 10(3): 1707–1715.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sun J, Cheng G W, Li W P, et al. 2013b. On the variation of NDVI with the principal climatic elements in the Tibetan Plateau. Remote Sensing, 5(4): 1894–1911.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Verburg P S J, Young A C, Stevenson B A, et al. 2013. Do increased summer precipitation and N deposition alter fine root dynamics in a Mojave Desert ecosystem? Global Change Biology, 19(3): 948–956.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang M Q, Han J, Haq Z, et al. 2011. Energy and greenhouse gas emission effects of corn and cellulosic ethanol with technology improvements and land use changes. Biomass and Bioenergy, 35(5): 1885–1896.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wang X X, Dong S K, Yang B, et al. 2014. The effects of grassland degradation on plant diversity, primary productivity, and soil fertility in the alpine region of Asia’s headwaters. Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 186(10): 6903–6917.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wen L, Dong S K, Li Y Y, et al. 2013a. Effect of degradation intensity on grassland ecosystem services in the alpine region of Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China. PLoS ONE, 8(3): e58432, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0058432.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wen L, Dong S K, Li Y Y, et al. 2013b. The impact of land degradation on the C pools in alpine grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Plant and Soil, 368(1–2): 329–340.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wu G L, Li W, Shi Z H, et al. 2011. Aboveground dominant functional group predicts belowground properties in an alpine grassland community of western China. Journal of Soils and Sediments, 11(6): 1011–1019.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Wu J S, Shen Z X, Zhang X Z, et al. 2013. Biomass allocation patterns of alpine grassland species and functional groups along a precipitation gradient on the Northern Tibetan Plateau. Journal of Mountain Science, 10(6): 1097–1108.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Xu W X, Gu S, Zhao X Q, et al. 2011. High positive correlation between soil temperature and NDVI from 1982 to 2006 in alpine meadow of the Three-River Source Region on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation, 13(4): 528–535.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yang Y H, Fang J Y, Ji C J, et al. 2009. Above and belowground biomass allocation in Tibetan grasslands. Journal of Vegetation Science, 20(1): 177–184.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yang Y H, Fang J Y, Mohammat A, et al. 2010. Large-scale pattern of biomass partitioning across China’s grasslands. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 19: 268–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yang Y H, Fang J Y, Ji C J, et al. 2014. Stoichiometric shifts in surface soils over broad geographical scales: evidence from China’s grasslands. Global Ecology and Biogeography, 23(8): 947–955.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang K R, Dang H S, Zhang Q F, et al. 2015. Soil carbon dynamics following land-use change varied with temperature and precipitation gradients: evidence from stable isotopes. Global Change Biology, 21(7): 2762–2772.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhou H K, Zhao X Q, Tang Y H, et al. 2005. Alpine grassland degradation and its control in the source region of the Yangtze and Yellow Rivers, China. Grassland Science, 51(3): 191–203.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhou X Q, Chen C R, Wang Y F, et al. 2013. Warming and increased precipitation have differential effects on soil extracellular enzyme activities in a temperate grassland. Science of the Total Environment, 444: 552–558.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Jian Sun.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Wang, H., Sun, J., Li, W. et al. Effects of soil nutrients and climate factors on belowground biomass in an alpine meadow in the source region of the Yangtze-Yellow rivers, Tibetan Plateau of China. J. Arid Land 8, 881–889 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-016-0055-2

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-016-0055-2

Keywords

  • belowground biomass
  • soil organic carbon
  • soil nitrogen and phosphorus
  • climate factor
  • alpine meadow
  • Tibetan Plateau