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  • Volume 7 Issue 1
    The tropical rainforest at Mt. Jianfengling in Hainan Province of China (18°44′N, 108°50′E, 1000 m a.s.l.), which is one of the six forests studied by Dongmei Jin and her colleagues in research about variation of leaf functional traits with the adult height of plant species. Photo taken by Bin Chen.
    Research Articles
    Petra Lindemann-Matthies, Dominique Keller, Xuefei Li, Bernhard Schmid
    2014, 7 (1): 1-9.
    Abstract ( 71 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Despite the current interest in services provided by ecosystems and the role of biodiversity, the relationship among human attitudes, biodiversity and ecosystem services has hardly been investigated. Moreover, few studies have examined attitudes toward nature in cross-cultural comparisons. This study investigates the attitudes of Chinese and Swiss people, both environmental experts and laypersons, toward forest biodiversity and ecosystem services.
    Methods Overall, 640 people in China and Switzerland were interviewed with the help of a standardized questionnaire. In each country, the study population was equally divided into an urban (80 city dwellers and 80 environmental science students) and a rural (80 forest visitors and 80 farmers) study group. The 15-minute interviews took place in the cities of Beijing and Zurich and in the rural forested areas of Dujiangyan, Sichuan Province and Lake Sempach, canton Lucerne. Attitudes toward forest biodiversity were investigated with the help of color photographs that depicted both monocultures and species-rich forests typical for China and Switzerland. Attitudes toward ecosystem services were investigated with the help of 13 statements on provisioning, regulating, cultural and supporting services of forests.
    Important findings On average, Chinese participants showed no strong preferences for biodiversity, whereas the Swiss clearly preferred species-rich forests over monocultures. However, Chinese environmental science students did prefer species-rich forests and attributed to them a higher conservation value because of their higher biodiversity. Although there were no strong preferences for Chinese versus Swiss forests, all participants correctly answered that Chinese forests are more species rich in terms of plants and animals and thus found them less boring and more interesting, but also less managed, than Swiss forests. All participants highly valued the ecosystem services provided by forests; especially the regulating and supporting ones. Environmental science students and farmers placed more importance on the provisioning services, whereas city dwellers and forest visitors emphasized more on the regulating services. The disjuncture between the high ecological quality of species-rich forests and their low attractiveness to Chinese study participants points to a potential conflict between conservation policies and the public's preferences. A better communication of ecosystem services provided by forest biodiversity to the public might change these preferences in favor of ecological quality, as already observed among Chinese environmental science students.
    Yulong Zhang, Conghe Song, Kerong Zhang, Xiaoli Cheng, Quanfa Zhang
    2014, 7 (1): 10-23.
    Abstract ( 51 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Terrestrial net primary production (NPP), the balance of gross primary production (GPP) and autotrophic respiration (AR), is a critical measure of carbon sequestration capacity for the Earth's land surface. The aim of this study was to understand the spatio-temporal variability of NPP associated with GPP and AR in the Yangtze River Basin (YRB), China, from 2000 to 2009 during which the basin warmed significantly.
    Methods We first derived AR and carbon-use efficiency (CUE) from the improved Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer GPP/NPP products (MOD17) and then conducted spatial analysis to quantify how NPP relates to GPP, AR and their relationship with key observed climate variables (temperature, precipitation and sunshine percentage) in the YRB during 2000–2009.
    Important findings The spatial pattern of NPP in the YRB was predominantly determined by GPP and further modified by AR. Higher GPP and relatively low AR made the southern Jinshajiang sub-basin the most productive area in NPP in the YRB. A large portion of the YRB experienced a warmer and drier climate trend in the growing season during 2000–2009. In the upper reaches of the basin, possessing a relatively low temperature base, increases in temperature led to greater increases in GPP than those in AR, resulting in greater increased NPP. However, in the middle and lower reaches of the basin where the base temperature is relatively high, increases in temperature led to greater increases in AR than those in GPP, leading to decreases in NPP. Overall, 86.7% of the vegetated area showed a consistent GPP and NPP trend through time with 71.3% of the vegetated area having a positive trend both in GPP and NPP, and the remaining 13.3% of vegetated areas showed an opposite trend in GPP and NPP, with positive GPP and negative NPP trajectories dominating (10.1% of vegetated area) the trend. Although climate warming generally had positive effects on vegetation growth in most areas of the basin, areas with increased NPP (74.5%) were less extensive than those with increased GPP (81.4%) due to the wider increase in AR (82.2%). During the study period, increases in AR offset 62% of the total increased GPP, leading to a substantial decline of CUE, particularly in the warmer lower altitude regions in the southeast. Our work reveals the diverse responses of NPP associated with GPP and AR as the climate warms and generally suggests that NPP in the middle and lower sub-basins in the YRB is more sensitive to future climate warming. These findings enhance our understanding of terrestrial ecosystem carbon dynamics in response to global warming and provide a scientific basis for managing ecosystem productivity in the YRB, China.
    Choimaa Dulamsuren, Mookhor Khishigjargal, Christoph Leuschner, Markus Hauck
    2014, 7 (1): 24-38.
    Abstract ( 57 )   PDF   Save
    Aims The Mongolian Altai is an old settlement area, which is populated by pastoral nomads since 2000–3000 years. Forests in this region (at ca. 2300 m a.s.l.) are highly fragmented and border on steppe and alpine grasslands, which are used for mobile livestock husbandry. The climate in Central Asia is warming to levels clearly above the global average, which affects the vegetation. Furthermore, the transition from planned to market economy and the decollectivization of livestock 20 years ago has strongly changed land use practices in Mongolia, especially resulting in an increase in recent logging activities. We were interested in the question how climate warming and selective logging influence the annual stem growth and the stand structure.
    Methods The impact of climate and land use by the pastoral nomads on the annual stem increment of more than 1800 trees of Siberian larch (Larix sibirica) was analyzed. Different groups of trees with divergent growth trends depending on the social position and stand history were identified by non-metric multidimensional scaling and analysis of similarities. Long-term trends in the annual stem increment were analyzed by establishing separate regional growth curves for trees of different age classes.
    Important findings Instrumental climate data substantiate an increase of temperature by 2.1°C since 1940 at constant precipitation. Trees benefit from the increased temperatures. Climate–response analysis revealed that radial stem increment was promoted by the temperature in early summer, but also high precipitation in spring and in the year before tree-ring formation. Forest dynamics is also strongly influenced by anthropogenic activities. In addition to the natural forest dynamics, logging resulted in divergent growth trends within given age classes and habitats (forest interior and forest edge); overall, 22 groups of trees with different characteristics in the annual radial stem increment were identified. A tree-ring series-based reconstruction of logging intensity since 1935 suggests that moderate selective logging occurred throughout the study period. However, selective logging was strongly intensified after 1990 as the result of the breakdown of the Communist regime in Mongolia and the transition from centrally planned to market economy. Because tree stump densities showed that the ratio of felled to live trees was 2:1 in the interior or even 0.9:1 at the edges of the forests and most logging occurred during the past 20 years, it must be concluded that the forests of the Mongolian Altai are presently exploited far beyond the level of sustainability. A close correlation of the ratio of felled to live trees with the density of summer camps of pastoral nomads in the vicinity suggests that trees are primarily felled by the local population.
    Leilei Tang, Kaiyuan Wan, Chuanpeng Cheng, Ruhai Li, Daozhong Wang, Junfeng Pan, Yong Tao, Juan Xie, Fang Chen
    2014, 7 (1): 39-50.
    Abstract ( 66 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Understanding the response of farmland weed community assembly to fertilization is important for designing better nutrient management strategies in integrated farmland ecological systems. Many studies have focused on weed characteristics, mainly crop–weed competition responses to fertilization or weed communities alone. However, weed community assembly in association with crop growth is poorly understood in the agroecosystems, but is important for the determination of integrated weed management. Biodiversity promotes ecosystem productivity in the grassland, but whether it applies to the agroecosystems is unclear. Based on an 11-year field experiment, the cumulative effects of different fertilization patterns on the floristic composition and species diversity of farmland weed communities along with wheat growth in a winter wheat–soybean rotation were investigated.
    Methods The field trial included five fertilization patterns with different combinations of N, P and K fertilizers. Species composition and diversity of weed communities, aboveground plant biomass and nutrient accumulation of weeds and winter wheat, light penetration to the ground surface and wheat yield were measured at each plot in 2009 and 2010. Multivariate analysis, regression and analysis of variance were used to analyze the responses of these parameters to the different fertilization treatments.
    Important findings Four dominant weeds (Galium aparine L., Veronica persica Poir., Vicia sativa L. and Geranium carolinianum L.) accounted for ~90% of the total weed density in the 2 years of experimental duration. The residual weed community assembly was influenced primarily by topsoil available nutrients in the order P> N> K. Competition for nutrients and solar radiation between crops and weeds was the main indirect effect of fertilization on the changes in weed community composition and species diversity. The indices of species diversity (species richness, Shannon–Wiener, Pielou and Simpson indices) showed significant linear relationships with wheat yield. The balanced fertilization treatment was more efficient at inhibiting the potential growth of weeds because of solar radiation being intercepted by wheat. These results support the conclusion that wheat yield is favored by balanced fertilization, whereas the weed community is favored by PK fertilization in terms of density and diversity. However, the negative effects on wheat yield may be compromised by simultaneous positive effects of weed communities in the fertilization treatments, for instance, the NP and NK treatments, which are intermediate in terms of increasing wheat production and to a level maintaining a diverse community.
    Gregory R. Houseman
    2014, 7 (1): 51-58.
    Abstract ( 51 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Species aggregation is commonly seen in plant communities and may increase diversity by causing intraspecific competition to exceed interspecific competition. One potential source of this spatial aggregation is seed dispersal but it is unclear to what extent aggregated seed distributions affect plant diversity in real communities. Using a field experiment, I tested whether uniform or aggregated seed arrival alters community structure and whether these effects vary with sowing density.
    Methods The experiment consisted of two spatial seeding treatments (uniform and aggregated) that were fully crossed with three seed density treatments. Sixty, 3 × 4-m plots were arrayed in a low-diversity grassland located in Kansas, USA. Each plot was divided into forty-eight, 0.5 × 0.5-m patches. For aggregated seeding treatments, each of the 15 species was sown into three randomly selected patches within the plot (3×15 = 45). To create a uniform species arrival but control for the seed addition method, all 15 species were sown into 45 individual patches (with three patches remaining unsown) within each plot. Seed mass for each species was held constant at the plot scale between uniform or aggregated treatments within a given level of the sowing density treatment. After two growing seasons, plant density was quantified for all sown species in 15 randomly selected patches from each plot.
    Important findings I found evidence for shifts in community structure in response to the different spatial seeding patterns. The evenness of added species was higher under aggregated than uniform sowing patterns. There was no detectable effect of aggregated seed sowing on species richness at 3.75 m 2 scale. However, when species richness was extrapolated to larger scales (11.25 m 2), aggregated sowing was predicted to have greater richness than uniform sowing. Effects of seed aggregation on community structure were apparent only at moderate to high sowing rates, yet the latter are within the range of measured seed dispersal in similar grasslands. Additionally, as sowing density increased, seed mass became an increasingly effective predictor of relative abundances for added species, but only under uniform sowing patterns supporting the idea that aggregated dispersal may buffer weaker (smaller seeded) species from competition during colonization. This is the first experiment to show that aggregated seed dispersal patterns can increase at least some components of plant diversity in undisturbed grasslands and suggests that previous seed dispersal experiments, which utilize uniform seed sowing, may underestimate the potential effect of dispersal on plant community structure.
    Caihong Zhang, Shenggong Li, Leiming Zhang, Xiaoping Xin, Xingren Liu
    2014, 7 (1): 56-67.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims We explored the decomposition rates of single- and mixed-species litter, the litter-mixing effect and the effect of component litters in a mixture on decomposition.
    Methods In a litter bag experiment, shoot litters from two dominant grasses (Leymus chinensis and Stipa baicalensis) and one legume (Melissitus ruthenica) were decomposed separately and as a mixture from May 2010 to September 2011 in the Hulun Buir meadow steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. We separated the litter mixture into its individual component litters (i.e. the different single-species litters) and analyzed the changes in litter mass remaining and litter nitrogen (N) remaining during single- and mixed-species litter decomposition.
    Important findings (i) Litter mixing had significant positive effects on litter decomposition. The litter-mixing effect was strongest for the mixture of S. baicalensis and L. chinensis litters, followed by the mixture of S. baicalensis and M. ruthenica litters. (ii) Single-species component litters decomposed faster in the mixtures than separately (positive effect), but these effects were not significant for legume species M. ruthenica litter. Relative to single-species litter decomposition, the decomposition rates of the two grass (S. baicalensis and L. chinensis) litters significantly increased when they were mixed with each other or with M. ruthenica litter. (iii) For each species litter type, the percentage of litter N remaining during decomposition (N R) differed between the single-species litter and mixed litter treatments. The N R of S. baicalensis litter was higher when it was decomposed in the mixture than in isolation. However, the N R of L. chinensis litter was lowest in its mixture with M. ruthenica among the treatments. Regardless of its decomposition in the mixture or in isolation, the N R of M. ruthenica litter varied little among treatments. There was a significant positive relationship between the N R and percentage of initial litter mass remaining in both the single litter and mixed litter treatments. These results suggest that N transfer may happen among component litters in mixture and further affect the decomposition.
    Dongmei Jin, Xuecui Cao, Keping Ma
    2014, 7 (1): 68-76.
    Abstract ( 59 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Within-community variation accounts for a remarkable proportion of the variation in leaf functional traits. Plant height may be used to explain within-community variances of leaf traits because different microenvironments, especially light intensity, may occur at different heights. This study determines whether or not leaf nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) contents as well as leaf mass per area (LMA) are interspecifically correlated with the adult height of forest woody species. We also discuss these relationships with respect to community structure and functions of the ecosystem.
    Methods A total of 136 dicotyledonous woody species from 6 natural forests (3 evergreen and 3 deciduous ones) in East China (18°44′–45°25′N, 108°50′–128°05′E) were investigated. For each of the 157 species–site combinations, 6 traits were measured: plant adult height relative to the forest canopy (H R), leaf N and P contents per unit area (N area and P area), N and P contents per unit dry mass (N mass and P mass) and LMA. The total variances of each leaf trait across sites were partitioned in a hierarchical manner. The relationships between leaf traits and H R within forest communities were then analyzed using both standardized major axis regression and Felsenstein's phylogenetic independent contrasts. Relationships between evergreen and deciduous forests were compared by linear mixed models.
    Important findings H R is a robust predictor of leaf N area, P area and LMA, explaining 36.7, 39.4 and 12.0% of their total variations across forests, respectively. Leaf N area, P area and LMA increased with H R in all of the studied forests, with slopes that were steeper in evergreen forests than in deciduous ones. Leaf N mass and P mass showed no significant relationship with H R generally. The increase in leaf N area, P area and LMA with H R across species is assumed to maximize community photosynthesis and may favor species with larger H R .
    Fernando Pulido, Gerardo Moreno, Eustolia García, José J. Obrador, Raúl Bonal, Mario Díaz
    2014, 7 (1): 77-85.
    Abstract ( 59 )   PDF   Save
    Aims In plants, resource allocation to growth and reproduction may depart from trade-off expectations if (i) investment in growth and reproduction relies on different resource pools, (ii) allocation to reproduction is dependent upon reaching some growth threshold or (iii) reproduction is developmentally linked to growth, both functions relying on the same resource pool. We examined the effects of enhanced resource level on patterns of resource allocation to growth and reproduction in holm oak (Quercus ilex sbsp. ballota), a Mediterranean evergreen tree.
    Methods In the experimental year (2003), we manipulated the amount of soil nutrients in autumn (to increase nutrient uptake during shoot elongation in the following spring) and soil water in summer (to increase water uptake during acorn growth). Indicators of growth and male and female reproduction were estimated in the pre-experimental (2002), experimental (2003) and post-experimental (2004) years.
    Important findings Fertilized trees produced significantly longer shoots, but the number of female flowers per shoot was not affected by treatments. The production of male catkins was also enhanced by fertilization. Irrigation did not affect the production of female flowers or abortion rates. Growth and female reproduction showed no consistent relationship in untreated trees, but resource addition elicited a growth-female reproduction trade-off in the experimental year. The sign of this significant relationship changed in the post-experimental year, indicating the existence of lagged effects of resource manipulation on acorn production. Overall, patterns of allocation to growth and reproduction varied as a function of sex, resource availability and year, a result consistent with extreme allocational plasticity in holm oak.
    Faming Wang, Jin Liu, Bi Zou, Deborah A. Neher, Weixing Zhu, Zhian Li
    2014, 7 (1): 86-96.
    Abstract ( 60 )   PDF   Save
    Aims Forest disturbance from extreme weather events due to climate change could increase the contribution of fresh green leaves to the litter layer of soil and subsequently alter the composition and activity of the soil microbial properties and soil carbon cycling. The objective of this study was to compare the effect of naturally fallen litter and fresh leaves on the soil microbial community composition and their activities.
    Methods Fresh leaves and normal fallen litter were collected from four tree species (Pinus elliottii, Schima superba, Acacia mangium, A. auriculaeformis) in subtropical China and mixed with soil. Soil microbial community composition was determined using PLFAs, and its activity was quantified by soil respiration. During a 12-month period, the decomposition rate of litter was measured bimonthly using a litterbag method. Soil microbial samples were collected after 6 and 12 months. Soil respiration was measured monthly.
    Important findings We found that fresh leaves decomposed faster than their conspecific fallen litter. Although total microbial biomass and bacterial biomass were similar among treatments, soil fungal biomass was higher in fresh leaf than fallen litter treatments, resulting in greater values of the Fungal phospholipid fatty acids (PLFAs)/Bacterial PLFAs ratio. Fungal PLFA values were greater for Schima superba than the other species. The effect of litter type on soil respiration was species-dependent. Specifically, fallen litter released 35% more CO2 than fresh leaves of the conifer P. elliottii. The opposite pattern was observed in the broadleaf species whose fresh leaf treatments emitted 17%–32% more CO2 than fallen litter. Given future predictions that global climate change will cause more disturbances to forests, these results indicate that conifer and broadleaf forests in subtropical China may respond differently to increased fresh litter inputs, with net soil microbial respiration decreasing in conifer forests and increasing in broadleaf forests.
Impact Factor
5 year Impact Factor
Wen-Hao Zhang
Bernhard Schmid