Project description:Understanding the response of the plant community to increasing nitrogen (N) deposition is helpful for improving pasture management in semi-arid areas. We implemented a 5-year N addition experiment in a Stipa krylovii steppe of Inner Mongolia, northern China. The aboveground biomass (AGB) and species richness were measured annually. Along with the N addition levels, the species richness declined significantly, and the species composition changed noticeably. However, the total AGB did not exhibit a noticeable increase. We found that compensatory effects of the AGB occurred not only between the grasses and the forbs but also among Gramineae species. The plant responses to N addition, from the community to species level, lessened in dry years compared to wet or normal years. The N addition intensified the reduction of community productivity in dry years. Our study indicated that the compensatory effects of the AGB among the species sustained the stability of grassland productivity. However, biodiversity loss resulting from increasing N deposition might lead the semi-arid grassland ecosystem to be unsustainable, especially in dry years.
Project description:Soil represents the largest terrestrial organic carbon pool. To address global climate change, it is essential to explore the soil organic carbon storage patterns and their controlling factors. We investigated the soil organic carbon density (SOCD) in 48 grassland sites along the Eurasian steppe eastern transect (ESET) region, which covers the Inner Mongolia grassland subregion and Mongolia grasslands subregion. Specifically, we analyzed the SOCD in the top 30 cm soil layer and its relationships with climatic variables, soil texture, grazing intensity and community biomass productivity. The results showed that the average SOCD of the ESET was 4.74 kg/m2, and the SOCD of the Inner Mongolia grassland subregion (4.11 kg/m2) was significantly lower than that of the Mongolia grassland subregion (5.79 kg/m2). Significant negative relationships were found between the SOCD and the mean annual temperature (MAT), mean annual precipitation (MAP) and grazing intensity in the ESET region. The MAT and grazing intensity were identified as the major factors influencing the SOCD in the ESET region; the MAP and MAT were the major factors influencing the SOCD in the Inner Mongolia grassland subregion; and the MAT and soil pH were the major factors influencing the SOCD in the Mongolia grassland subregion.
Project description:Many investigations across natural and artificial plant diversity gradients have reported that both soil physicochemical factors and plant community composition affect soil microbial communities. To test the effect of plant diversity loss on soil bacterial communities, we conducted a five-year plant functional group removal experiment in a steppe ecosystem in Inner Mongolia (China). We found that the number and composition type of plant functional groups had no effect on bacterial diversity and community composition, or on the relative abundance of major taxa. In contrast, bacterial community patterns were significantly structured by soil water content differences among plots. Our results support researches that suggest that water availability is the key factor structuring soil bacterial communities in this semi-arid ecosystem.
Project description:Annuals are an important component part of plant communities in arid and semiarid grassland ecosystems. Although it is well known that precipitation has a significant impact on productivity and species richness of community or perennials, nevertheless, due to lack of measurements, especially long-term experiment data, there is little information on how quantity and patterns of precipitation affect similar attributes of annuals. This study addresses this knowledge gap by analyzing how quantity and temporal patterns of precipitation affect aboveground biomass, interannual variation aboveground biomass, relative aboveground biomass, and species richness of annuals using a 29-year dataset from a dry steppe site at the Inner Mongolia Grassland Ecosystem Research Station. Results showed that aboveground biomass and relative aboveground biomass of annuals increased with increasing precipitation. The coefficient of variation in aboveground biomass of annuals decreased significantly with increasing annual and growing-season precipitation. Species richness of annuals increased significantly with increasing annual precipitation and growing-season precipitation. Overall, this study highlights the importance of precipitation for aboveground biomass and species richness of annuals.
Project description:Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) play an essential role in complex ecosystems. However, the species diversity and composition of AMF communities remain unclear in semi-arid mountains. Further, it is not well understood if the characteristics of AMF community assemblies differ for different habitat types, e.g., agricultural arable land, artificial forest land, natural grassland, and bush/wood land. Here, using the high-throughput technology by Illumina sequencing on the MiSeq platform, we explored the species diversity and composition of soil AMF communities among different habitat types in a semi-arid mountain (Taihang Mountain, Mid-western region of China). Then, we analyzed the effect of nutrient composition and soil texture on AMF community assembly. Our results showed that members of the Glomus genera were predominated in all soil types. The distance-based redundancy analysis indicated that the content of water, available phosphorus, and available potassium were the most crucial geochemical factors that significantly affected AMF communities (p < 0.05). The analysis of the soil texture confirmed that AMF diversity was negatively correlated with soil clay content. The comparison of AMF diversity among the various habitat types revealed that the artificial forest land had the lowest AMF diversity in comparison with other land types. Our findings suggest that there were differences in species diversity and composition of soil AMF communities among different habitat types. These findings shed new light on the characteristics of community structure and drivers of community assembly in AMF in semi-arid mountains, and point to the potential importance of different habitat types on AMF communities.
Project description:The response of soil microorganisms to altered nitrogen (N) and rainfall patterns plays an important role in understanding ecosystem carbon and nitrogen cycling processes under global change. Previous studies have separately focused on the effects of N addition and rainfall on soil microbial diversity and community composition. However, the combined and interactive impact of N addition and rainfall on soil microbial diversity and function mediated by plant and soil processes have been poorly investigated for grassland ecosystems. Here, we conducted a field experiment with simulated N addition (N addition: 10 g N m<sup>-2</sup>yr<sup>-1</sup>) and altered rainfall pattern [control, rainfall reduction (compared to control -50%); rainfall addition (compared to control + 50%)] to study their interactive effects on soil microbial diversity and function in a temperate steppe of Inner Mongolia. Our results showed that N addition and rainfall addition significantly increased soil bacterial diversity, and the bacterial diversity was positively correlated with soil microbial biomass nitrogen, inorganic nitrogen, and <i>Stipa krylovii</i> root exudate C:N ratio, <i>Allium polyrhizum</i> root exudate C and N, and <i>A. polyrhizum</i> root exudate C:N ratio. N addition and rainfall reduction significantly reduced fungal diversity, which correlated closely with soil microbial biomass carbon and the C:N ratio of <i>A. polyrhizum</i> root exudates. Bacteria were mainly eutrophic r-strategists, and the responses of bacterial function guilds to the interaction between N addition and rainfall pattern were not significant. However, the arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF), in the functional classification of fungi, were significantly reduced under the condition of N addition and rainfall reduction, and the absolute abundance of the phylum Glomeromycota increased under rainfall addition, suggesting that AMFs are sensitive to altered N and rainfall patterns over short timescales (1 year). Collectively, our results have important implications for understanding the plant-soil-microbe system of grasslands under climate change.
Project description:Next-generation sequencing technologies with markers covering the full Glomeromycota phylum were used to uncover phylogenetic community structure of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) associated with Festuca brevipila. The study system was a semi-arid grassland with high plant diversity and a steep environmental gradient in pH, C, N, P and soil water content. The AMF community in roots and rhizosphere soil were analyzed separately and consisted of 74 distinct operational taxonomic units (OTUs) in total. Community-level variance partitioning showed that the role of environmental factors in determining AM species composition was marginal when controlling for spatial autocorrelation at multiple scales. Instead, phylogenetic distance and spatial distance were major correlates of AMF communities: OTUs that were more closely related (and which therefore may have similar traits) were more likely to co-occur. This pattern was insensitive to phylogenetic sampling breadth. Given the minor effects of the environment, we propose that at small scales closely related AMF positively associate through biotic factors such as plant-AMF filtering and interactions within the soil biota.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Grazing disturbance plays an important role in the desert steppe ecosystem in Inner Mongolia, China. Previous studies found that grazing affected the spatial distribution of species in a community, and showed patchiness characteristics of species under different grazing treatments. Artemisia frigida is the dominant species and semi-shrub in desert steppe, and whether grazing interference will affect the spatial distribution of A. frigida is studied. In this study, geo-statistical methods were mainly used to study the spatial distribution characteristics of A. frigida population in desert steppe of Inner Mongolia at two scales (quadrat size 2.5 m × 2.5 m, 5 m × 5 m) and four stocking rates (control, CK, 0 sheep·ha<sup>-1</sup>·month<sup>-1</sup>; light grazing, LG, 0.15 sheep·ha<sup>-1</sup>·month<sup>-1</sup>, moderate grazing, MG, 0.30 sheep·ha<sup>-1</sup>·month<sup>-1</sup>, heavy grazing, HG, 0.45 sheep·ha<sup>-1</sup>·month<sup>-1</sup>).<h4>Results</h4>The results showed that the spatial distribution of A. frigida tended to be simplified with the increase of stocking rate, and tended to be banded with increased spatial scale. The density and height of A. frigida increased with increasing scale. With increased stocking rate, the density of A. frigida population decreased linearly, while its height decreased in a step-wise fashion. The spatial distribution of A. frigida was mainly affected by structural factors at different scales and stocking rate. The density of A. frigida was more sensitive to change in stocking rate, and the patchiness distribution of A. frigida was more obvious with increase in scale.<h4>Conclusions</h4>Stocking rate has a strong regulatory effect on the spatial pattern of A. frigida population in the desert steppe. Heavy grazing reduced the spatial heterogeneity of A. frigida in the desert steppe. The smaller dominant populations are unfavourable for its survival in heavy grazing condition, and affects the stability and productivity of the grassland ecosystem.
Project description:<h4>Background</h4>Livestock grazing is the most prevalent land use of grasslands worldwide. The effects of grazing on plant C, N, P contents and stoichiometry across hierarchical levels, however, have rarely been studied; particularly whether the effects are mediated by resource availability and the underpinning mechanisms remain largely unclear.<h4>Methodology/principal findings</h4>Using a multi-organization-level approach, we examined the effects of grazing on the C, N, and P contents and stoichiometry in plant tissues (leaves and roots) and linkages to ecosystem functioning across three vegetation types (meadow, meadow steppe, and typical steppe) in the Inner Mongolia grassland, China. Our results showed that the effects of grazing on the C, N, and P contents and stoichiometry in leaves and roots differed substantially among vegetation types and across different hierarchical levels (species, functional group, and vegetation type levels). The magnitude of positive effects of grazing on leaf N and P contents increased progressively along the hierarchy of organizational levels in the meadow, whereas its negative effect on leaf N content decreased considerably along hierarchical levels in both the typical and meadow steppes. Grazing increased N and P allocation to aboveground in the meadow, while greater N and P allocation to belowground was found in the typical and meadow steppes. The differences in soil properties, plant trait-based resource use strategies, tolerance or defense strategies to grazing, and shifts in functional group composition are likely to be the key mechanisms for the observed patterns among vegetation types.<h4>Conclusions/significance</h4>Our findings suggest that the enhanced vegetation-type-level N contents by grazing and species compensatory feedbacks may be insufficient to prevent widespread declines in primary productivity in the Inner Mongolia grassland. Hence, it is essential to reduce the currently high stocking rates and restore the vast degraded steppes for sustainable development of arid and semiarid grasslands.
Project description:Sensitivity of plant species to individual arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungal species is of primary importance to understanding the role of AM fungal diversity and composition in plant ecology. Currently, we do not have a predictive framework for understanding which plant species are sensitive to different AM fungal species. In two greenhouse studies, we tested for differences in plant sensitivity to different AM fungal species and mycorrhizal responsiveness across 17 grassland plant species of North America that varied in successional stage, native status, and plant family by growing plants with different AM fungal treatments including eight single AM fungal isolates, diverse mixtures of AM fungi, and non-inoculated controls. We found that late successional grassland plant species were highly responsive to AM fungi and exhibited stronger sensitivity in their response to individual AM fungal taxa compared to nonnative or early successional native grassland plant species. We confirmed these results using a meta-analysis that included 13 experiments, 37 plant species, and 40 fungal isolates (from nine publications and two greenhouse experiments presented herein). Mycorrhizal responsiveness and sensitivity of response (i.e., variation in plant biomass response to different AM fungal taxa) did not differ by the source of fungal inocula (i.e., local or not local) or plant family. Sensitivity of plant response to AM fungal species was consistently correlated with the average mycorrhizal response of that plant species. This study identifies that AM fungal identity is more important to the growth of late successional plant species than early successional or nonnative plant species, thereby predicting that AM fungal composition will be more important to plant community dynamics in late successional communities than in early successional or invaded plant communities.