Impact Factor
2.282
5 year Impact Factor
2.239
Editors-in-Chief
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid
  • Volume 12,Issue 6
    01 December 2019
      Aamir Latif, Sana Ilyas, Yangjian Zhang, Yuqin Xin, Lin Zhou and Quan Zhou
      2019, 12 (6): 917-930.
      Abstract ( 20 )   PDF   Save

      The Tibetan Plateau (TP) holds fundamental ecological and environmental significances to China and Asia. The TP also lies in the core zone of the belt and road initiative. To protect the TP environment, a comprehensive screening on current ecological research status is entailed. The teased out research gap can also be utilized as guidelines for the recently launched major research programs, i.e. the second TP scientific expedition and silk and belt road research plan. The findings showed that the TP has experienced significant temperature increase at a rate of 0.2°C per decade since 1960s. The most robust warming trend was found in the northern plateau. Precipitation also exhibited an increasing trend but with high spatial heterogeneity. Changing climates have caused a series of environmental consequences, including lake area changes, glacier shrinkage, permafrost degradation and exacerbated desertification. The rising temperature is the main reason behind the glaciers shrinkage, snow melting, permafrost degradation and lake area changes on the TP and neighboring regions. The projected loss of glacial area on the plateau is estimated to be around 43% by 2070 and 75% by the end of the century. Vegetation was responsive to the changed environments, varied climates and intensified human activities by changing phenology and productivity. Future global change study should be more oriented toward integrating various research methods and tools, and synthesizing diverse subjects of water, vegetation, atmosphere and soil.

      Mareike Roeder, Weidong Yang and Kyle W. Tomlinson
      2019, 12 (6): 931-940.
      Abstract ( 15 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Savannahs depend on fire for their persistence. Fire influences regeneration from seeds in several ways: it converts the environment into a more open space which can benefit the establishment of seedlings, and fire itself can also enhance germination by chemical and physical cues, such as smoke and heat. There is limited information as to how seed of Asian savannah species respond to fire, even though Asia has several dry vegetation types that are associated with fire. Our main question was whether fire enhances or triggers the germination of woody species occurring in southwest Chinese dry valleys, which have savannah vegetation.

      Methods

      We conducted tests with heat (80°C) and smoke solution treatments, and tests with real fire by burning grass on top of sand trays containing seeds. We tested 35 species, including savannah species, and gully and forest species. Depending on seed availability, not all species were tested for all treatments. Twenty-six species had total germination >4% and these were used for analysis.

      Important Findings

      Heat increased germination of three species (strongest reaction: Dodonaea viscosa), smoke increased germination of five species (strongest reaction: Calotropis gigantea). Both treatments decreased germination for five and seven species, respectively. Real fire was detrimental for most species, except for D. viscosa, which is known to respond positively to heat shock. Even though fire-related cues were not a trigger for germination for most species in our study, fire could still be crucial for regeneration by competition release.

      Floret L. Meredith, Marianne L. Tindall, Frank A. Hemmings and Angela T. Moles
      2019, 12 (6): 941-948.
      Abstract ( 18 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Organisms on islands are thought to escape biotic pressure and lose defensive capabilities. However, broadscale, evidence-based tests of this idea are rare. In this study, we asked: (i) whether the proportion of spinescent plant species differed between islands and mainlands and (ii) whether the proportion of spinescent species increased with increasing island area and with decreasing island distance to mainland.

      Methods

      We compiled species lists for 18 island–mainland pairs around Australia. We classified 1129 plant species as spinescent or non-spinescent using published species descriptions.

      Important Findings

      There was no significant difference between the proportion of spinescent species found on islands and on mainlands. Proportions of spinescent species were not significantly related to island area or distance to mainland. Our results suggest that spinescence is just as important to island plants as it is to mainland plants, even for plants inhabiting small or distal islands. This is unexpected, given prevailing thought and previous work on island–mainland comparisons. Our study demonstrates the importance of testing well-accepted yet untested ideas.

      María Pérez-Fernández, Carole P. Elliott, Alex Valentine and José Antonio Oyola
      2019, 12 (6): 949-961.
      Abstract ( 13 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Seeds of Rumex crispus from six provenances were studied in relation to their germination under drought and presence of nitrogen in the germination and emergence media. We also investigated whether adaptation to soil increases the ability of the species to colonize and establish in contrasting environments along a longitudinal gradient in western Spain by means of a reciprocal transplantation experiment.

      Methods

      We conducted a germination trial in the lab to test for the germination responses to water scarcity along a polyethylene glycol gradient and to varying concentrations of nitrogen compounds. Simultaneously reciprocal transplantations experiment was conducted, where seeds from six provenances were grown in the soils from the very same provenances. Seedling emergence, survivorship and fitness-related variables were measured in all plots.

      Important Findings

      We found that R. crispus has a cold-stratification requirement that enhances its germination. Significant differences between the six provenances were detected for time-to-germination, total seedling emergence, plant mortality and reproductive effort in all the experiments. The differences between provenances with respect to germination were confirmed by the significant statistical analyses of the variance, thus providing evidence that seeds from parent plants grown in different environmental conditions have an intrinsically different abilities to germinate and establish. Soil nitrogen content where seed germination and seedlings establish also play an important role in their performance in terms of survivorship and reproduction, being the higher levels of inorganic nitrogen and of microbial biomass those that increased biomass production, enhanced inflorescence formation and reduced plant mortality. We conclude that one of the main reasons for the spread and maintenance of R. crispus would be the increased levels of nitrogen in agricultural soils.

      Yujing Yan and Zhiyao Tang
      2019, 12 (6): 962-971.
      Abstract ( 21 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Climate change in the near future may become a major threat to high-altitude endemics by greatly altering their distribution. Our aims are to (i) assess the potential impacts of future climate change on the diversity and distribution of seed plants endemic to the Tibetan Plateau and (ii) evaluate the conservation effectiveness of the current National Nature Reserves (NNRs) in protecting the endemic plants in the face of climate change.

      Methods

      We projected range shifts of 993 endemic species to the years 2050 and 2070 under two representative concentration pathway scenarios using an ensemble species distribution modeling framework and evaluated range loss, species-richness change and coverage of the current conservation network considering two dispersal scenarios.

      Important Findings

      In a full-dispersal scenario, 72–81% of the species would expand their distribution by 2070, but 6–20% of the species would experience >30% range loss. Most species would shift to the west. The projected species net richness would increase across the region on average. In a no-dispersal scenario, 15–59% of the species would lose >30% of their current habitat by 2070. Severe species loss may occur in the southeastern and the eastern peripheral plateau. Seventeen percent of species ranges are covered by the NNRs on average and may increase in the future if species disperse freely. We found a significant difference of species redistribution patterns between different dispersal scenarios and highlighted the importance of migration in this region.

      Sergio R. Roiloa, Peter Alpert and Rodolfo Barreiro
      2019, 12 (6): 972-981.
      Abstract ( 10 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Clonal growth is associated with invasiveness in introduced plant species, but few studies have compared invasive and noninvasive introduced clonal species to investigate which clonal traits may underlie invasiveness. To test the hypothesis that greater capacity to increase clonal growth via physiological integration of connected ramets increases invasiveness in clonal plants, we compared the effects of severing connections on accumulation of mass in the two species of the creeping, succulent, perennial, herbaceous genus Carpobrotus that have been introduced on sand dunes along the Pacific Coast of northern California, the highly invasive species Carpobrotus edulis and the co-occurring, noninvasive species Carpobrotus chilensis.

      Methods

      Pairs of ramets from four mixed populations of the species from California were grown in a common garden for 3 months with and without severing the stem connecting the ramets. To simulate the effect of clones on soils in natural populations, the older ramet was grown in sand amended with potting compost and the younger in sand alone.

      Important Findings

      Severance decreased net growth in mass by ~60% in C. edulis and ~100% in C. chilensis, due mainly to the negative effect of severance on the shoot mass of the younger ramet within a pair. Contrary to the hypothesis, this suggests that physiological integration increases growth more in the less invasive species. However, severance also decreased allocation of mass to roots in the older ramet and increased it in the younger ramet in a pair, and the effect on the younger ramet was about twice as great in C. edulis as in C. chilensis. This indicates that the more invasive species shows greater phenotypic plasticity in response to physiological integration, in particular greater capacity for division of labor. This could contribute to greater long-term growth and suggests that the division of labor may be a trait that underlies the association between clonal growth and invasiveness in plants.

      Yanting Hu, Ping Zhao, Yuqing Huang, Liwei Zhu, Guangyan Ni, Xiuhua Zhao and Zhihong Huang
      2019, 12 (6): 982-992.
      Abstract ( 9 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Land cover changes can disrupt water balance and alter the partitioning of precipitation into surface runoff, evapotranspiration and groundwater recharge. The widely planted Eucalyptustrees in south-western China have the potential to bring about hydrologic impacts. Our research aims to elucidate the hydrologic balance characteristics of the introduced exotic Eucalyptus grandis× Eucalyptus urophylla plantation and to assess whether its high productivity results from high water use efficiency (WUE) or large water consumption.

      Methods

      A 400-m2 experimental plot was established in an E. grandis × E. urophylla plantation in south-western China. Water balance components, including stand transpiration (Tr), evapotranspiration (Et) and runoff (R) were obtained as follows: Tr was estimated based on sap flow measurements, Et was estimated as the average of surface transpiration and evaporation weighted by the fractional green vegetation cover using a modeling approach, and R was collected using the installed metal frame. Net primary productivity (NPP) was obtained from allometric equation and annual diameter at breast height (DBH) increment determination.

      Important Findings

      Annual Et and Tr were 430 ± 31 and 239 ± 17 mm, respectively. Annual Traccounts for 56 ± 8% of total evapotranspiration on average. WUE (NPP/Tr) of the E. grandis × E. urophylla was estimated to be 3.3–3.9 mmol·mol−1. Based on the comparative analysis of Tr and WUE, E. grandis × E. urophylla had a high productivity due to its high WUE without exhibiting prodigal water use. Meteorological factors including vapor pressure deficit and global solar radiation (Rs) were key factors regulating Et and Tr in our research site. Annual surface runoff, Etand canopy interception occupied 7%, 27–30% and 16% of total precipitation, while the remaining 46–50% of precipitation was used for sustaining groundwater recharge and altering soil water storage. The higher runoff coefficient (7.1%) indicated the weaker capability of E. grandis × E. urophylla to reserve water resource than natural forests and less disturbed plantations. The planting and protection of understory vegetation may decrease the surface runoff and exert beneficial effects on water conservation capacity of Eucalyptus plantation.

      Xixi Yao, Jianping Wu and Xuyin Gong
      2019, 12 (6): 993-1008.
      Abstract ( 9 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Grasslands used for animal husbandry are chosen depending on the nutritive values of dominant herbage species. However, the influence of grazing in combination with precipitation and growing season on the nutritive values of dominant species has not been explicated.

      Methods

      To unveil the influence of the different grazing intensities on the nutritional values, an ecological study was formulated, namely fencing (G0), light grazing (G1), moderate grazing (G2) and high grazing (G3). This ambitious study was undertaken on the nutritive values of the four dominant species of herbage in an alpine meadow on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau (QTP) during growing season (June–September) for two successive years, namely 2015 (rainy year) and 2016 (droughty year).

      Important Findings

      We found that (i) the nutritive value of Kobresia capillifoliaPolygonum viviparum and Caragana sinica was noticeably increased by grazing, but negligible effect on Potentilla fruticosanutritive value was recorded. (ii) During the rainy year (2015), compared with G0, Polygonum viviparum and Potentilla fruticosa displayed 5.4 and 1.5% increases in the crude protein (CP) content and 8.5 and 2.4% increases in vitro true digestibility (IVTD), respectively, while the neutral detergent fibre (NDF) decreased by 13.5 and 0.9%, respectively. During the droughty year (2016), compared with G0, C. sinica and Potentilla fruticosa showed increases in the CP content by 4.3 and 1.3% and increases in the IVTD by 10.7 and 0.4%, respectively, during G3, while the NDF decreased by 6.0 and 1.0%, respectively. (iii) The nutritive values of all species were higher in the years when the rains were good. However, the nutritive values suffered heavily during drought conditions. Besides, the highest and lowest values of nutrition were detected in June and in September, respectively. The inter-seasonal and the inter-annual changes in the nutritional values of species were higher for K. capillifoliaand Polygonum viviparum than for Potentilla fruticosa and C. sinica, suggesting that Potentilla fruticosa and C. sinica had higher water-use efficiency. (iv) Grazing clearly reduced the drought tolerance of three species and showed no effects on Potentilla fruticosa. (v) Grazing clearly increased the inter-month variation in the nutritional value of K. capillifolia and Polygonum viviparum but showed no effects on Potentilla fruticosa or C. sinica. Evidently, the grazing effects impacting the nutritional value of the dominant species of herbage exhibited conspicuous inter-annual and seasonal variations with species-specific influences and responses. Our findings are expected to have far-reaching implications enabling the authorities to arrive at strategic decisions and designing of relevant policies for the efficient management of the ecosystems ensuring the speed restoration of the QTP under severe grazing and extreme climatic circumstances.

      Changcheng Liu, Thomas R. Wentworth, Xianguo Qiao, Ke Guo and Dongjie Hou
      2019, 12 (6): 1009-1024.
      Abstract ( 12 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      The latest China Vegetation Classification System (China-VCS) for natural/semi-natural vegetation has eight hierarchical levels: Association < Association-group < Subformation < Formation < Formation-group < Vegetation-subtype < Vegetation-type < Vegetation-type-group. The classification is based on dominant species and their growth forms and has been completed at the formation level. The principal challenge today in Chinese vegetation classification is to develop the China-VCS at levels below the formation in a way that is consistent with current international standards. We explored the following question: how can existing vegetation plot data help develop the China-VCS and improve its compatibility with other international classification systems?

      Methods

      We compiled 401 plots having plant cover and/or aboveground biomass measurements collected in six Stipa steppe formations and divided them into those with cover data (299 plots) and/or biomass data (283 plots). We applied a combination of hierarchical clustering and ordination to partition the cover and biomass data sets into formations and constituent associations. We then used supervised noise clustering to improve the classification and to identify the core plots representing each association. Diagnostic species were also identified at both association and formation levels. Finally, we compared the classification results based on cover and biomass data sets and combined these results into a comprehensive classification framework for the six formations.

      Important Findings

      Our results using cover data were comparable with those using biomass data at both formation and association levels. Three Stipa formations were classified into associations based on cover data, two based on biomass data and one based on both biomass and cover data. Twenty-seven associations were defined and proposed within the six formations, using cover or biomass data as consistent classification sections (CCSs). Both dominant species in the dominant stratum and diagnostic species from multiple strata of the core plots were used to characterize vegetation types at both formation and association levels, improving the compatibility of our classification with the International Vegetation Classification. Temperature and precipitation were found to be important climatic factors determining the distribution pattern and species composition of Stipa-dominated vegetation. We propose a framework for plot-based vegetation classification in the China-VCS, using our work with Stipa-dominated steppe vegetation as an example. We applied the concept of CCS to make optimal use of available data representing both plant cover and biomass. This study offers a model for developing the China-VCS to the association level in a way that is consistent with current international standards.

      Wen-Juan Han, Jia-Yu Cao, Jin-Liang Liu, Jia Jiang and Jian Ni
      2019, 12 (6): 1025-1033.
      Abstract ( 9 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      With the global atmospheric nitrogen (N) deposition increasing, the effect of N deposition on terrestrial plant diversity has been widely studied. Some studies have reviewed the effects of N deposition on plant species diversity; however, all studies addressed the effects of N deposition on plant community focused on species richness in specific ecosystem. There is a need for a systematic meta-analysis covering multiple dimensions of plant diversity in multiple climate zones and ecosystems types. Our goal was to quantify changes in species richness, evenness and uncertainty in plant communities in response to N addition across different environmental and experimental contexts.

      Methods

      We performed a meta-analysis of 623 experimental records published in English and Chinese journals to evaluate the response of terrestrial plant diversity to the experimental N addition in China. Three metrics were used to quantify the change in plant diversity: species richness (SR), evenness (Pielou index) uncertainty (Shannon index).

      Important Findings

      Results showed that (i) N addition negatively affected SR in temperate, Plateau zones and subtropical zone, but had no significant effect on Shannon index in subtropical zones; (ii) N addition decreased SR, Shannon index and Pielou index in grassland, and the negative effect of N addition on SR was stronger in forest than in grassland; (iii) N addition negatively affected plant diversity (SR, Shannon index and Pielou index) in the long term, whereas it did not affect plant diversity in the short term. Furthermore, the increase in N addition levels strengthened the negative effect of N deposition on plant diversity with long experiment duration; and (iv) the negative effect of ammonium nitrate (NH4NO3) addition on SR was stronger than that of urea (CO(NH2)2) addition, but the negative effect of NH4NO3 addition on Pielou index was weaker than that of CO(NH2)2 addition. Our results indicated that the effects of N addition on plant diversity varied depending on climate zones, ecosystem types, N addition levels, N type and experiment duration. This underlines the importance of integrating multiple dimensions of plant diversity and multiple factors into assessments of plant diversity to global environmental change.

      Betina Kellermann and André Eduardo Biscaia Lacerda
      2019, 12 (6): 1034-1046.
      Abstract ( 10 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Assessing the role of a dominant native bamboo species on tree species diversity and structure in the medium term.

      Methods

      Over a 7-year period, we studied the natural regeneration of two dominant forest types in Southern Brazil (Araucaria Forest or AF; Bamboo Forest or BF) after a bamboo (Merostachys skvortzovii Send.) die-off between 2004 and 2006. The study was carried out in the Embrapa Research Station in Caçador, Santa Catarina State, Brazil.

      Important Findings

      The die-off provided ideal conditions for the establishment of several species and it kickstarted forest succession dynamics, which in turn affected regeneration diversity. Tree species richness was relatively stable with a transitory increase between 2007 and 2014 in both AF and BF. However, species richness rose in BF because of a relative increase in abundance of some species (especially late and secondary species) while a plunge in some pioneer species drove an increase in diversity. Overall, we found that BF has a lower diversity of recruits and that density declined over time, while AF is more diverse, with a more stable density. In BF, the bamboo die-off created optimal conditions for initial regeneration development (mainly fast-growing pioneer trees), which quickly transited to higher size classes. Yet, after this initial stage of pioneer recruitment, the number of recruits dropped followed by a virtual absence of growth regardless of the species group as a result of a quick bamboo reestablishment. As bamboo recreated a dense understory it reduced species diversity to original levels, suggesting a self-maintaining cycle that halts forest succession. On the other hand, the bamboo die-off had little impact on AF where a slow recruitment process typical of old-growth forests was observed. The results indicate that the die-off event had a temporary effect on species diversity i.e. restricted to forests where bamboos are dominant in a similar process described in other southern South American forests. As the first study to observe the medium-term forest dynamics related to bamboo die-off, we can conclude that when being dominant, native bamboos can hinder forest regeneration, maintaining lower levels of diversity and arresting forest succession that lasts well beyond the short-term, post-die-off effects. Many forest fragments in the region are dominated by bamboos, thus their potential for conservation is at risk and requires appropriate management.

      Hélio Menegat, Divino Vicente Silvério, Henrique A. Mews, Guarino R. Colli, Ana Clara Abadia, Leonardo Maracahipes-Santos, Lorrayne A. Gonçalves, Jhany Martins and Eddie Lenza
      2019, 12 (6): 1047-1058.
      Abstract ( 12 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Different plant functional groups display diverging responses to the same environmental gradients. Here, we assess the effects of environmental and spatial predictors on species turnover of three functional groups of Brazilian savannas (Cerrado) plants—trees, palms and lianas—across the transition zone between the Cerrado and Amazon biomes in central Brazil.

      Methods

      We used edaphic, climatic and plant composition data from nine one-hectare plots to assess the effects of the environment and space on species turnover using a Redundancy Analysis and Generalized Dissimilarity Modeling (GDM), associated with variance partitioning.

      Important Findings

      We recorded 167 tree species, 5 palms and 4 liana species. Environmental variation was most important in explaining species turnover, relative to geographic distance, but the best predictors differed between functional groups: geographic distance and silt for lianas; silt for palms; geographic distance, temperature and elevation for trees. Geographic distances alone exerted little influence over species turnover for the three functional groups. The pure environmental variation explained most of the liana and palm turnover, while tree turnover was largely explained by the shared spatial and environmental contribution. The effects of geographic distance upon species turnover leveled off at about 300 km for trees, and 200 km for lianas, whereas they were unimportant for palm species turnover. Our results indicate that environmental factors that determine floristic composition and species turnover differ substantially between plant functional groups in savannas. Therefore, we recommend that studies that aim to investigate the role of environmental conditions in determining plant species turnover should examine plant functional groups separately.

      Lin Wei, Pengwei Yao, Guanghua Jing, Xiefeng Ye and Jimin Cheng
      2019, 12 (6): 1059-1072.
      Abstract ( 10 )   PDF   Save
      Aims

      Clipping or mowing for hay, as a prevalent land-use practice, is considered to be an important component of global change. Root production and turnover in response to clipping have great implications for the plant survival strategy and grassland ecosystem carbon processes. However, our knowledge about the clipping effect on root dynamics is mainly based on root living biomass, and limited by the lack of spatial and temporal observations. The study aim was to investigate the effect of clipping on seasonal variations in root length production and mortality and their distribution patterns in different soil layers in semiarid grassland on the Loess Plateau.

      Methods

      Clipping was performed once a year in June to mimic the local spring livestock grazing beginning from 2014. The minirhizotron technique was used to monitor the root production, mortality and turnover rate at various soil depths (0–10, 10–20, 20–30 and 30–50 cm) in 2014 (from 30 May to 29 October) and 2015 (from 22 April to 25 October). Soil temperature and moisture in different soil layers were also measured during the study period.

      Important Findings

      Our results showed that: (i) Clipping significantly decreased the cumulative root production (P < 0.05) and increased the cumulative root mortality and turnover rates of the 0–50 cm soil profile for both years. (ii) Clipping induced an immediate and sharp decrease in root length production and an increase in root length mortality in all soil layers. However, with plant regrowth, root production increased and root mortality decreased gradually, with the root production at a depth of 30–50 cm even exceeding the control in September–October 2014 and April–May 2015. (iii) Clipping mainly reduced root length production and increased root length mortality in the upper 0–20 cm soil profile with rapid root turnover. However, roots at deeper soil layers were either little influenced by clipping or exhibited an opposite trend with slower turnover rate compared with the upper soil profile, leading to the downward transport of root production and living root biomass. These findings indicate that roots in deeper soil layers tend to favour higher root biomass and longer fine root life spans to maximize the water absorption efficiency under environmental stress, and also suggest that short-term clipping would reduce the amount of carbon through fine root litter into the soil, especially in the shallow soil profile.

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Special Issue

Editor’s Choice

Effects of environmental conditions and space on species turnover for three plant functional groups in Brazilian savannas
Hélio Menegat, Divino Vicente Silvério, Henrique A. Mews, Guarino R. Colli, Ana Clara Abadia, Leonardo Maracahipes-Santos, Lorrayne A. Gonçalves, Jhany Martins and Eddie Lenza
Influence of smoke, heat and fire on germination of woody species occurring in the dry valleys of southwest China
Mareike Roeder, Weidong Yang and Kyle W. Tomlinson
Patterns and ecological determinants of woody plant height in eastern Eurasia and its relation to primary productivity
Zhiheng Wang, Yaoqi Li, Xiangyan Su, Shengli Tao, Xiao Feng, Qinggang Wang, Xiaoting Xu, Yunpeng Liu, Sean T. Michaletz, Nawal Shrestha, Markku Larjavaara, and Brian J. Enquist