Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2015, Vol. 39 ›› Issue (7): 649-660.doi: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0062

• Orginal Article •     Next Articles

Alpine grassland water use efficiency based on annual precipitation, growing season precipitation and growing season evapotranspiration

MI Zhao-Rong1,3, CHEN Li-Tong1, ZHANG Zhen-Hua1, HE Jin-Sheng1,2,*()   

  1. 1Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China
    2Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, and Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    3University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Online:2015-07-22 Published:2015-07-01
  • Contact: Jin-Sheng HE
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

Abstract: Aims Water use efficiency (WUE) is an important parameter to understand the coupling between the water, and carbon cycles of terrestrial ecosystems. Previous studies on the grassland ecosystem WUE on the Qinghai-Xizang Plateau mainly based on annual precipitation (AP). However, vegetation water use mainly occurs in growing season. Therefore, we aimed to explore the differences of ecosystem WUE between alpine meadow and alpine steppe, and the relationships between ecosystem WUE and environmental factors from 2000 to 2010, using annual precipitation use efficiency (PUEa), growing season precipitation use efficiency (PUEgs), growing season water use efficiency (WUEgs) based on AP, growing season precipitation (GSP) and growing season evapotranspiration (ETgs ) respectively. Methods Combining satellite-derived above-ground net primary productivity (ANPP), satellite-derived evapotranspiration and meteorological data from 2000 to 2010, we calculated PUEa (ANPP / AP), PUEgs (ANPP / GSP) and WUEgs (ANPP / ETgs) to find the differences of PUEa, PUEgs and WUEgs between alpine meadow and alpine steppe. Moreover, we explored the relationships between PUEa, PUEgs or WUEgs and precipitation (or evapotranspiration) or air temperature. Important findings We found that (1) the PUEa and PUEgs of alpine meadow were higher than that of alpine steppe, but there were no significant difference between WUEgs of the two grassland types, indicating that there may be similar intrinsic water use efficiencies of the two grassland types. (2) The inter-annual variation of PUEa and PUEgs were similar while WUEgs showed a larger fluctuation, implying that ET-based WUEgs was more sensitive than precipitation-based PUEa and PUEgs, therefore WUEgs is a better indicator of ecosystem water use efficiency than PUEa or PUEgs. (3) The PUEa, PUEgs and WUEgs were negatively correlated with AP, GSP and ETgs respectively, reflecting a consistency of the three water use efficiency measurements. In the alpine steppe, only WUEgs was observed positively correlated with air temperature among the three measurements, but in the alpine meadow, no significant relationships between water use efficiency and air temperature was detected, suggesting that the WUEgs of alpine steppe was more sensitive to air temperature than that of alpine meadow.

Key words: alpine meadow, alpine steppe, evapotranspiration, growing season precipitation, precipitation use efficiency

Fig. 1

Distribution of the sampling meteorological stations based on the Vegetation Atlas of China (1:1 000 000) (Editorial Board of Vegetation Map of China, Chinese of Academy of Sciences, 2001)."

Table 1

Basic information of the sampling meteorological stations"

Fig. 2

The inter-annual variations (A, B, C) and differences (D, E, F) of annual precipitation use efficiency (PUEa), growing season precipitation use efficiency (PUEgs) and growing season water use efficiency (WUEgs) between alpine meadow and alpine steppe during 2000-2010 (mean ± SE)."

Fig. 3

The relationships between annual precipitation use efficiency (PUEa), growing season precipitation use efficiency (PUEgs) and growing season water use efficiency (WUEgs), and precipitation, evapotranspiration and air temperature. A, The relationship between PUEa and annual precipitation (AP). B, The relationship between PUEgs and growing season precipitation (GSP). C, The relationship between WUEgs and growing season evapotranspiration (ETgs). D, The relationship between PUEa and mean annual temperature (MAT). E, The relationship between PUEgs and mean growing season temperature (GST). F, The relationship between WUEgs and mean GST. AM, alpine meadow; AS, alpine steppe."

Fig. 4

The relationships between growing season evapotranspiration (ETgs) and annual precipitation (AP) (A) and growing season precipitation (GSP) (B). The diagonal line is 1:1 line."

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