J Plant Ecol ›› 2020, Vol. 13 ›› Issue (2): 157-164.DOI: 10.1093/jpe/rtz057

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Species turnover drives grassland community to phylogenetic clustering over long-term grazing disturbance

Juntao Zhu1,2 , Yangjian Zhang1,3,4, *, Wenfeng Wang5 , Xian Yang2 , Ning Chen1 , Ruonan Shen1 , Li Wang6 and Lin Jiang2   

  1. 1 Lhasa Plateau Ecosystem Research Station, Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China, 2 School of Biological Sciences, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta, GA 30332, USA, 3 CAS Center for Excellence in Tibetan Plateau Earth Sciences, Beijing 100101, China, 4 College of Resources and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100190, China, 5 Tibet Academy of Agricultural and Animal Husbandry Science, Lhasa 850032, China, 6 Shenzhen Graduate School, Peking University, Shenzhen 518000, China

    *Corresponding author. E-mail: zhangyj@igsnrr.ac.cn
  • Received:2019-09-04 Revised:2019-12-07 Accepted:2019-12-18 Online:2019-12-23 Published:2020-04-01



Grazing exerts profound effects on grassland ecosystem service and functions by regulating species composition and diversity, and structuring community assembly worldwide. However, adaptions of phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic community structure to long-term grazing disturbance remain poorly studied, especially for ecosystems distributed in extreme environments.


Here, we conducted an experiment with multigrazing intensities to explore the impacts of grazing disturbance on plant phylogenetic diversity and community structure in an alpine grassland of the Tibetan Plateau.

Important Findings

Grazing disturbance enriched plant species richness (SR), and stimulated species turnover from regional species pool, consequently changing community species composition. Under low intensities, grazing exerted no obvious effects on phylogenetic diversity and community structure, whereas communities changed from overdispersion to clustering under high grazing intensity. High grazing intensity resulted in stronger environmental filtering, which consequently selected those species with high resilience to grazing disturbance. The observed clustering structure was associated with the colonizing species which were closely related to resident species, and locally extinct species, and distantly related to residents. At the plant functional trait level, high grazing intensity increased species colonization largely by altering the effect of root depth on species colonization compared to light grazing. Our results highlight that solely utilization of SR and diversity cannot fully represent grassland communities responses to grazing. The effects of species turnover on community phylogenetic diversity and structure are entailed to be explored in the future grazing studies.

Key words: alpine grassland, grazing, phylogenetic diversity, phylogenetic community structure, species richness


关键词: 高山草原, 放牧, 系统发育多样性, 系统发育群落结构, 物种丰富度