HAO Aihua, LUO Zhengming, CHEN Xiaojiang. 2024: Elevational patterns of warming effects on plant community and topsoil properties: focus on subalpine meadows ecosystem. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(1): 146-159. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8091-9
Citation: HAO Aihua, LUO Zhengming, CHEN Xiaojiang. 2024: Elevational patterns of warming effects on plant community and topsoil properties: focus on subalpine meadows ecosystem. Journal of Mountain Science, 21(1): 146-159. DOI: 10.1007/s11629-023-8091-9

Elevational patterns of warming effects on plant community and topsoil properties: focus on subalpine meadows ecosystem

  • Climate warming profoundly affects plant biodiversity, community productivity, and soil properties in alpine and subalpine grassland ecosystems. However, these effects are poorly understood across elevational gradients in subalpine meadow ecosystems. To reveal the elevational patterns of warming effects on plant biodiversity, community structure, productivity, and soil properties, we conducted a warming experiment using open-top chambers from August 2019 to August 2022 at high (2764 m a. s. l.), medium (2631 m a. s. l.), and low (2544 m a. s. l.) elevational gradients on a subalpine meadow slope of Mount Wutai, Northern China. Our results showed that three years of warming significantly increased topsoil temperature but significantly decreased topsoil moisture at all elevations (P < 0.05), and the percentage of increasing temperature and decreasing moisture both gradually raised with elevation lifting. Warming-induced decreasing proportions of soil organic carbon (SOC, by 19.24%), and total nitrogen (TN, by 24.56%) were the greatest at high elevational gradients. Experimental warming did not affect topsoil C: N, pH, NO3-N, or NH4+-N at the three elevational gradients. Warming significantly increased species richness (P < 0.01) and Shannon-Weiner index (P < 0.05) at low elevational gradients but significantly decreased belowground biomass (P < 0.05) at a depth of 0–10 cm at three elevational gradients. Warming caused significant increases in the aboveground biomass in the three elevational plots. Warming significantly increased the aboveground biomass of graminoids in medium (by 92.47%) and low (by 98.25%) elevational gradients, that of sedges in high (by 72.44%) and medium (by 57.16%) elevational plots, and that of forbs in high (by 75.88%), medium (by 34.38%), and low (by 74.95%) elevational plots. Species richness had significant linear correlations with SOC, TN, and C: N (P < 0.05), but significant nonlinear responses to soil temperature and soil moisture in the warmed treatment (P < 0.05). The warmed aboveground biomass had a significant nonlinear response to soil temperature and significant linear responses to soil moisture (P < 0.05). This study provided evidence that altitude is a factor in sensitivity to climate warming, and these different parameters (e.g., plant species richness, Shannon-Weiner index, soil temperature, soil moisture, SOC, and TN) can be used to measure this sensitivity.
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