J Plant Ecol ›› 2016, Vol. 9 ›› Issue (5): 576-585.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtw006

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Variations in leaf carbon isotope composition along an arid and semi-arid grassland transect in northern China

Chao Wang, Dongwei Liu, Wentao Luo, Yunting Fang, Xiaobo Wang, Xiaotao Lü, Yong Jiang, Xingguo Han and Edith Bai*   

  1. Key Laboratory of Forest Ecology and Management, Institute of Applied Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Shenyang 110164, China
  • Received:2015-08-15 Accepted:2016-01-18 Published:2016-09-20
  • Contact: Bai, E (Edith)

Abstract: Aims We aimed to quantify the variation of leaf δ 13 C along an arid and semi-arid grassland transect in northern China. We also evaluated the effects of environmental factors (i.e. precipitation, temperature and altitude) on the spatial variation of leaf δ 13 C in northern grasslands and Tibetan Plateau, China.Method We sampled leaves of plant species belonging to three herb genera (Stipa spp., Leymus spp. and Cleistogenes spp.) and three shrub genera (Caragana spp., Reaumuria spp. and Nitraria spp.) for carbon isotope analysis from 50 locations along a 3200-km arid and semi-arid grassland transect in northern China. Leaf δ 13 C data in Tibetan Plateau and northern grasslands in China were also compiled from studies in literature.
Important findings Along the transect, leaf δ 13 C for C3 plants ranged from ?28.0‰ to ?23.3‰, and from-16.3‰ to-13.8‰ for C4 plant Cleistogenes spp.. The change in leaf δ 13 C ranged from ?0.26‰ to ?3.51‰ with every 100mm increase of annual precipitation, and leaf δ 13 C of shrubs (Nitraria spp., Reaumuria spp. and Caragana spp.) responded more markedly to climatic factors (precipitation and temperature) than that of herbs (Stipa spp., Leymus spp. and Cleistogenes spp.), indicating higher sensitivity of shrub δ 13 C to climatic changes. The most important factor regulating spatial variations of leaf δ 13 C in Tibetan Plateau was altitude, while it was precipitation in northern grasslands. Our results suggested that shrubs are more adapted to increasing drought in arid and semi-arid grassland. Controls of environmental factors on leaf δ 13 C depended on the most limiting factors in arid grassland (precipitation) and Tibetan grasslands (atmospheric CO2 concentration).

Key words: carbon isotope, water use efficiency, plant life-form, rainfall gradient, climate change

摘要:
Aims We aimed to quantify the variation of leaf δ 13 C along an arid and semi-arid grassland transect in northern China. We also evaluated the effects of environmental factors (i.e. precipitation, temperature and altitude) on the spatial variation of leaf δ 13 C in northern grasslands and Tibetan Plateau, China.Method We sampled leaves of plant species belonging to three herb genera (Stipa spp., Leymus spp. and Cleistogenes spp.) and three shrub genera (Caragana spp., Reaumuria spp. and Nitraria spp.) for carbon isotope analysis from 50 locations along a 3200-km arid and semi-arid grassland transect in northern China. Leaf δ 13 C data in Tibetan Plateau and northern grasslands in China were also compiled from studies in literature.
Important findings Along the transect, leaf δ 13 C for C3 plants ranged from ?28.0‰ to ?23.3‰, and from-16.3‰ to-13.8‰ for C4 plant Cleistogenes spp.. The change in leaf δ 13 C ranged from ?0.26‰ to ?3.51‰ with every 100mm increase of annual precipitation, and leaf δ 13 C of shrubs (Nitraria spp., Reaumuria spp. and Caragana spp.) responded more markedly to climatic factors (precipitation and temperature) than that of herbs (Stipa spp., Leymus spp. and Cleistogenes spp.), indicating higher sensitivity of shrub δ 13 C to climatic changes. The most important factor regulating spatial variations of leaf δ 13 C in Tibetan Plateau was altitude, while it was precipitation in northern grasslands. Our results suggested that shrubs are more adapted to increasing drought in arid and semi-arid grassland. Controls of environmental factors on leaf δ 13 C depended on the most limiting factors in arid grassland (precipitation) and Tibetan grasslands (atmospheric CO2 concentration).