J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2008, Vol. 50 ›› Issue (6): 659-672.DOI: 10.1111/j.1744-7909.2008.00676.x

• Bioenergy Plants • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Response of Polygonum viviparum Species and Community Level to Long-term Livestock Grazing in Alpine Shrub Meadow in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau

Zhihong Zhu, Jeremy T Lundholm, Yingnian Li and Xiaoan Wang   

  • Received:2007-05-20 Accepted:2007-08-12

Abstract: Grazing by domestic herbivores is generally recognized as a major ecological factor and an important evolutionary force in grasslands. Grazing has both extensive and profound effects on individual plants and communities. We investigated the response patterns of Polygonum viviparum species and the species diversity of an alpine shrub meadow in response to long-term livestock grazing by a field manipulative experiment controlling livestock numbers on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in China. Here, we hypothesize that within a range of grazing pressure, grazing can alter relative allocation to different plant parts without changing total biomass for some plant species if there is life history trade-offs between plant traits. The same type of communities exposed to different grazing pressures may only alter relative species' abundances or species composition and not vary species diversity because plant species differ in resistant capability to herbivory. The results show that plant height and biomass of different organs differed among grazing treatments but total biomass remained constant. Biomass allocation and absolute investments to both reproduction and growth decreased and to belowground storage increased with increased grazing pressure, indicating the increasing in storage function was attained at a cost of reducing reproduction of bulbils and represented an optimal allocation and an adaptive response of the species to long-term aboveground damage. Moreover, our results showed multiform response types for either species groups or single species along the gradient of grazing intensity. Heavy grazing caused a 13.2% increase in species richness. There was difference in species composition of about 18%–20% among grazing treatment. Shannon-Wiener (H') diversity index and species evenness (E) index did not differ among grazing treatments. These results support our hypothesis.

Key words: alpine shrub meadow, biomass allocation, grazing response, relative species’ abundances, species diversity.

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