Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (2): 111-129.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017021


• Orginal Article • Previous Article     Next Article

Relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in alpine meadows of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Zhonghua Zhang1, 6, Huakun Zhou1, 2, *(), Xinquan Zhao1, 2, *(), Buqing Yao1, Zhen Ma1, Quanmin Dong3, Zhenhua Zhang1, Wenying Wang4, Yuanwu Yang5   

  1. 1 Key Laboratory of Cold Regions Restoration Ecology, Qinghai Province, Northwest Plateau Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008
    2 The Co-constructing State Key Laboratory of Three Rivers Sources Ecology and Plateau Agriculture and Animal Husbandry, Qinghai University, Xining 810016
    3 Qinghai Academy of Animal and Veterinary Sciences, Xining 810016
    4 College of Life and Geography Science, Qinghai Normal University, Xining 810008
    5 College of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry, Qinghai University, Xining 810016
    6 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049
  • Received:2017-01-23 Accepted:2017-07-15 Online:2018-05-05
  • Zhou Huakun,Zhao Xinquan;
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

The study of the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) is a hot topic in the field of terrestrial ecosystem ecology, and is of great significance for the efficient use and management of ecosystems. Furthermore, it plays an important role in the restoration of degraded ecosystems and biodiversity conservation. Alpine grassland is the main ecosystem type found in the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. In recent years, progress has been made on species diversity and ecosystem functioning and their mutual relationship in alpine grasslands. This paper analyzes existing problems in the research of grassland biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in terms of the study of underlying ecological processes and the impacts on ecosystem multi-functionality under global change. The effects of different grassland types, grassland degradation, grazing disturbance, simulated climate change, mowing, fertilization, enclosure, and replanting on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in alpine grasslands are also thoroughly reviewed in this paper. Moreover, deficiencies and future research directions of alpine grassland BEF are identified: carrying on the BEF research of alpine grasslands based on the functional diversity of species, comprehensively considering the effects of abiotic factors such as resource supply levels, disturbance intensity and scale, and environmental fluctuation on the relationship between species diversity and ecosystem function, and paying attention to the effect of scale and element coupling on BEF research of alpine grasslands under global climate change. Finally, based on research progress and conclusions of BEF in alpine grasslands, we put forward suggestions to improve the utilization rate of alpine grassland resources and biodiversity conservation, including strengthening grazing management, protecting biodiversity, improving governance of degraded grasslands, maintaining biodiversity function, strengthening innovation and protection concepts and enhancing ecosystem functioning that has been seriously weakened by climate change and human disturbance.

Key words: alpine meadow, biodiversity, ecosystem function, productivity, climate warming, grazing, land use, protection strategy

Fig. 1

Relationship between species diversity and level of disturbance. I, At low level of disturbance, species diversity is at a lower level due to competitive exclusion; II, At moderate level of disturbance, species diversity can be greatest due to the coexistence of species in the early and late stages of succession; III, At high level of disturbance, species richness decreases due to increased disturbance."

Table 1

Effect of grazing on the relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in alpine grassland"

Experimental period (year)
Underground biomass
Above ground
Alpine grassland
3 - 驼峰曲线 Hump - Chen et al, 2015
Alpine meadow
6 * - * Zhao et al, 2009
Kobresia pygmae meadow
2 * * 驼峰曲线 Hump - - Dong et al, 2012
Potentilla fruticosa shrubs
18 - - 驼峰曲线 Hump * Zhou et al, 2004
Alpine meadow
Natural grazing
驼峰曲线 Hump Jiang et al, 2003
Potentilla fruticosa shrubs
1 正相关 Positive - Liu et al, 1999
Alpine meadow
Natural grazing
- - 驼峰曲线 Hump - Ren et al, 2009

Table 2

Response of biomass and community productivity to climate warming in alpine grassland"

草地类型 Grassland types 生物量和群落生产力 Biomass and community productivity 文献 References
Subalpine grassland in
Northwest Sichuan Province
The biomass of Deyeuxia scabrescens, Festuca elatior and Deschampsia caespitosa increase
Shi et al, 2008;
Xu et al, 2009
高寒草甸 Alpine meadow 禾本科牧草生物量下降 Biomass of gramineous forage decreased Li et al, 2011
Alpine meadow along the Qinghai-Tibet Railway
增温使生物量更多分配到地上部分, 而冻土融化致使深层土壤水分对生物量产生影响。根系生物量略有增加, 但在生长季不同月份其增加的程度不同, 致使年际间的增幅出现差异。
Warming makes more biomass allocation to aboveground parts, and the melting of frozen soil leads to the effect of soil moisture on biomass. The root biomass increased slightly, but the degree of increase was different in different months of growing season, resulting in a difference in interannual growth.
Xu et al, 2016a
Kobresia humilis meadow in Haibei, Qinghai
禾草生物量增加, 杂草生物量下降; 提高地上生产力40%以上。
Grasses biomass increased, weeds biomass decreased, and aboveground productivity increased by over 40%.
Zhou et al, 2000;
Li et al, 2004;
Wang et al, 2012
Alpine grassland in Tianshan Mountain, Xinjiang Province
生物量先增加后减少 Biomass increased first and then decreased Li et al, 2007b

Fig. 2

Changes in the curve of relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem function (BEF) before and after warming. To facilitate understanding, it is assumed BEF curve as log- linear curve (some experimental results supports the model). Arrow size indicates size of the possibility."

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