Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (4): 343-351.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0033

• Orginal Article • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Community succession and photosynthetic physiological characteristics of pasture plants in a sub-alpine meadow in Gannan, China

CHEN Shi-Wei, LIU Min-Xia*(), JIA Yun, AN Qi, AN Yan-Fei   

  1. College of Geography and Environmental Science, Northwest Normal University, Lanzhou 730070, China
  • Received:2014-07-07 Accepted:2015-01-28 Online:2015-04-21 Published:2015-04-01
  • Contact: Min-Xia LIU
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Abstract: <i>Aims</i>

A plant’s photosynthetic characteristics reflect its adaptive strategies to a given environment. Using pasture plants within enclosures representing communities at different stages of habitat restoration, our objective was to determine how photosynthetic characteristics vary between these different communities and what causes these differences in order to find the theoretical basis to foster rehabilitation of degraded grassland in sub-alpine meadows.


We predicated a succession sequence according to the species richness and the Shannon-Wiener diversity indices, the important values of the main species, and the biotype of five different communities. We measured several photosynthetic parameters including area-based leaf CO2 assimilation rate (Aarea), special leaf area (SLA), foliar nitrogen content based on mass (Nmass), photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency (PNUE), water-use efficiency (WUE) and chlorophyll content (SPAD) of dominant species and three common species in each succession stage. Soil water content and total nitrogen of surface soil (0-20 cm) for each community were measured as well. One-way ANOVA was used to find the differences between dominant species, while principal components analysis (PCA) was used to reveal the variation in different communities for each measured parameter.

<i>Important findings</i>

Photosynthetic traits were different among dominant species and different succession communities. The Aarea, WUE and SPAD of the dominant species decreased as succession progressed, but the Nmass, PNUE and SLA showed no consistent patterns related to succession; they varied between different functional groups. For each of the non-dominant species, the Aarea and SPAD gradually decreased as succession proceeded from initial stage to climax stage. With succession, WUE and PNUE of the non-leguminous plants (Elymus dahuricus and Geranium wilfordii) decreased while SLA and Nmass increased. However, there were no obvious changes in these parameters for the leguminous plant (Medicago sativa). Soil water content and total nitrogen increased with succession, suggesting that water content and nitrogen are two important factors affecting variation of community photosynthetic characteristics in different stages of restoration succession.

Key words: functional group, photosynthetic physiological characteristics, restoration, succession, resource-use efficiency

Table 1

Characters of five different community plots"

Important value of dominant and main species
Shannon indices
A 刺儿菜 Cirsium setosum (0.251) 20 3.55
紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa (0.093)
披碱草 Elymus dahuricus (0.054)
B 披碱草 Elymus dahuricus (0.429) 18 2.79
刺儿菜 Cirsium setosum (0.069)
二裂委陵菜 Potentilla bifurca (0.060)
紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa (0.055)
C 紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa (0.148) 32 4.00
甘青蒿 Artemisia tangutica (0.068)
老鹳草 Geranium wilfordii (0.047)
披碱草 Elymus dahuricus (0.060)
少花米口袋 Gueldenstaedtia verna (0.017)
D 沙蒿 Artemisia desertorum (0.140) 36 4.01
羊茅 Festuca ovina (0.109)
圆穗蓼 Polygonum macrophyllum (0.083)
紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa (0.071)
披碱草 Elymus dahuricus (0.056)
E 金露梅 Potentilla fruticosa (0.433) 40 4.15
蕨麻 Potentilla anserina (0.060)
披碱草 Elymus dahuricus (0.047)
紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa (0.011)

Table 2

Area-based leaf CO2 assimilation rate (Aarea), chlorophyll content (SPAD), foliar nitrogen content based on mass (Nmass) and specific leaf area (SLA) of dominant species at different succession stages (mean ± SD)"

(μmol CO2 m-1·s-1)
SPAD Nmass
刺儿菜 Cirsium setosum 15.25 ± 2.71c 47.99 ± 2.36e 18.14 ± 1.97bcd 150.19 ± 5.48a
披碱草 Elymus dahuricus 17.41 ± 0.64c 39.69 ± 0.20cd 11.52 ± 3.18a 180.40 ± 4.88ab
紫苜蓿 Medicago sativa 16.51 ± 2.95c 50.96 ± 1.99e 23.04 ± 1.77de 241.35 ± 35.07c
少花米口袋 Gueldenstaedtia verna 14.20 ± 1.48bc 43.02 ± 1.97d 26.23 ± 3.62e 200.12 ± 10.21bc
甘青蒿 Artemisia tangutica 13.52 ± 0.72bc 30.75 ± 0.49b 19.48 ± 2.66cd 242.24 ± 15.87c
老鹳草 Geranium wilfordii 16.06 ± 2.52c 24.75 ± 1.72a 15.43 ± 0.42abc 165.20 ± 17.33ab
圆穗蓼 Polygonum macrophyllum 10.40 ± 4.21b 35.90 ± 5.62c 13.19 ± 2.77ab 194.10 ± 27.70ab
沙蒿 Artemisia desertorum 13.30 ± 1.55bc 35.48 ± 2.65c 16.61 ± 3.09abc 207.30 ± 31.33bc
金露梅 Potentilla fruticosa 4.29 ± 0.92a 27.10 ± 1.25ab 18.82 ± 1.72cd 203.66 ± 37.09bc

Fig. 1

Resource-use efficiency of different dominant species (mean ± SD). CE, Cirsium setosum; GQ, Artemisia tangutica; JL, Potentilla fruticosa; LG, Geranium wilfordii; MD, Gueldenstaedtia verna; MX, Medicago sativa; PJ, Elymus dahuricus; QH, Polygonum macrophyllum; SH, Artemisia desertorum. PNUE, photosynthetic nitrogen-use efficiency; WUE, water-use efficiency. Different letters in the same column are significantly different (p < 0.05)."

Table 3

The lowerpart of coefficient matrix among photosynthetic characteristics"

Photosynthetic physiological characteristics
基于面积的CO2同化速率Aarea 1
基于质量的叶片氮含量 Nmass 0.151 1
光合氮利用效率 PNUE 0.725*** -0.436** 1
叶绿素含量 SPAD 0.469** 0.311 0.103 1
气孔导度 Gs 0.319* 0.060 0.398* 0.140 1
水分利用效率 WUE 0.712*** -0.136 0.369* 0.293 -0.314* 1
比叶面积 SLA -0.215 0.511** -0.105 0.133 0.092 -0.353* 1

Fig. 2

Principal components (PC) analysis of photosynthetic physiological characteristics of nine different species. CE, Cirsium setosum; GQ, Artemisia tangutica; JL, Potentilla fruticosa; LG, Geranium wilfordii; MD, Gueldenstaedtia verna; MX, Medicago sativa; PJ, Elymus dahuricus; QH, Polygonum macrophyllum; SH, Artemisia desertorum."

Fig. 3

Principal components (PC) analysis of photosynthetic physiological characteristics of common species in five communities. ■, Geranium wilfordii; ○, Medicago sativa; △, Elymus dahuricus; A, Cirsium setosum-Artemisia tangutica community; B, Elymus dahuricus-Cirsium setosum community; C, Medicago sativa-Artemisia tangutica community; D, Artemisia desertorum-Festuca ovina community; E, Potentilla fruticosa community."

Fig. 4

Soil water content and total nitrogen content (TN) of five different community plots (mean ± SD). A, Cirsium setosum-Artemisia tangutica community; B, Elymus dahuricus- Cirsium setosum community; C, Medicago sativa-Artemisia tangutica community; D, Artemisia desertorum-Festuca ovina community; E, Potentilla fruticosa community. Different capital letters indicate significant differences among soil water contents; different small letters indicate significant differences among soil total nitrogen contents (p < 0.05)."

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