Community Ecology

, Volume 18, Issue 2, pp 157–168 | Cite as

Succession of plant community composition and leaf functional traits in responding to karst rocky desertification in the Wushan County in Chongqing, China

  • D. Qi
  • X. WienekeEmail author
  • X. Zhou
  • X. Jiang
  • P. Xue
Open Access


Karst rocky desertification (KRD) is a process of soil desertification, which leads to the decline of soil quality and biomass. We conducted a plant community survey in KRD areas in Chongqing, China. Our aims were to determine key soil properties that shape plant communities and to identify essential leaf functional traits (LFTs) in responding to the progression of KRD. The vegetation survey was carried in a total of twenty study sites (five replicates for four stages of KRD) in the Wushan County in Chongqing, China. Leaves were collected from all the species in every site and measured/calculated for five LFTs, namely, specific leaf area, leaf area, leaf thickness, leaf tissue density, and leaf dry matter content. Soil samples were collected in triplicates in each site to measure soil properties. We found that the overall richness and diversity of community decreased along with the progression of KRD. Phanerophytes predominated in all the KRD areas. Soil pH was the main determinant of vegetation structure. Leaves with lower area yet higher density had the optimal adaptability in KRD regions, which can be planted as pioneer vegetation to restore land in KRD regions.


Karst rocky desertification Leaf functional traits Plant-soil relationship Raunkiaer’s life-form Soil properties Vegetation 





Latent KRD


Moderate KRD


Severe KRD


Specific Leaf Area


Leaf Area


Leaf Thickness


Leaf Tissue Density


Leaf Dry Matter Content


Importance Value


Relative Density


Relative Cover


Relative Frequency


Soil Organic Matter


Soil Field Moisture Capacity


Soil Capillary Moisture Capacity


Soil Bulk Density


Soil Porosity


Soil Water Content


Analyses of Variance


Least Significant Difference


RDA–Distance-Based Redundancy Analysis


LDA Effect Size

Supplementary material

42974_2017_1802157_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (78 kb)
Supplementary material, approximately 80 KB.


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© Akadémiai Kiadó, Budapest 2017

Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited, you give a link to the Creative Commons License, and indicate if changes were made.

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Key laboratory of Eco-environments in the Three Gorges Reservoir Region (Ministry of Education), Chongqing Key Laboratory of Plant Ecology and Resources Research in Three Gorges Reservoir Region, School of Life SciencesSouthwest UniversityChongqingP. R. China
  2. 2.Animal Science DepartmentOklahoma State UniversityStillwaterUSA
  3. 3.The Forestry Academy of ChongqingChongqingP. R. China

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