Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2016, Vol. 40 ›› Issue (8): 775-787.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2015.0288

Special Issue: 青藏高原植物生态学:群落生态学

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Plant leaf traits, height and biomass partitioning in typical ephemerals under different levels of snow cover thickness in an alpine meadow

Jing GAO1,2, Jin-Niu WANG1,3,*(), Bo XU1,2, Yu XIE1,2, Jun-Dong HE1,2, Yan WU1,*()   

  1. 1Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China

    2University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China

    3International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), Kathmandu, Nepal
  • Online:2016-08-10 Published:2016-08-23
  • Contact: Jin-Niu WANG,Yan WU


Aims In the cold life zones, snow cover is a comprehensive environmental factor that directly influences soil temperature, soil water content, light and nutrient availability. Plants in these zones develop a series of unique mechanisms involving phenological characteristics, reproductive strategies, physiology and morphology to adapt to environmental changes. This paper is focused on the responses of plant leaf traits, height and biomass partitioning to variations in snow cover thickness, in order to better understand the responses of plant functional traits and specific adaptation strategies under global climate change scenarios. Methods Three transects were established along a gradient of snow cover in an alpine meadow of Mt. Kaka, in the eastern Qinghai-Xizang Plateau. Primula purdomii, Pedicularis kansuensis and Ranunculus tanguticus, which are three widely distributed and dominant ephemerals, were sampled and studied, particularly at their blooming stages. Plant height, specific leaf area (SLA) and biomass partitioning were measured accordingly. Important findings The values of SLA in Pedicularis kansuensis and R. tanguticus were relatively greater under better soil conditions; it was smaller in Primula purdomii with thick snow cover. The relationship between aboveground biomass and belowground biomass in Primula purdomii was allometric at sites with both thick and thin snow cover. No significant relationships were found between aboveground biomass and belowground biomass in Pedicularis kansuensis and R. tanguticus at some individual sites. However, when samples of the three species were pooled, the relationships between aboveground biomass and belowground biomass were allometric at all sites, which did not support isometric scaling hypothesis. In addition, on sites with either thick or thin snow cover, aboveground biomass had greater rate of accumulation than belowground biomass; whereas on sites with medium snow cover, the rate of biomass accumulation was greater for belowground component than aboveground component. Functional traits and biomass variables were better correlated in Primula purdomii and Pedicularis kansuensis than in R. tanguticus.

Key words: snow cover thickness, ephemeral plant, special leaf area, plant height, biomass partitioning, allometric scaling