Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2022, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (9): 995-1004.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2021.0450

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Experimental warming changed reproductive phenology and height of alpine plants on the Qingzang Plateau

WEI Yao1,4, MA Zhi-Yuan2, ZHOU Jia-Ying3, ZHANG Zhen-Hua1,*()   

  1. 1Qinghai Haibei National Field Research Station of Alpine Grassland Ecosystem, Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China
    2Key Laboratory for Earth Surface Processes of the Ministry of Education, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing 100871, China
    3College of Eco-Environmental Engineering, Qinghai University, Xining 810016, China
    4University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2021-12-06 Accepted:2022-04-20 Online:2022-09-20 Published:2022-10-19
  • Contact: ZHANG Zhen-Hua
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China(31971467);National Natural Science Foundation of China(31630009);Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) Program of China(2019QZKK0302)


Aims Climate change is significantly altering the phenology and growth pattern of alpine plants related to their resource allocation strategies, thereby changing the functioning of alpine ecosystems. The aim of this study is to explore responses of reproductive phenology and vegetative growth of alpine plants to climate warming on the Qingzang Plateau.

Methods Experimental warming was achieved using infrared heating. From 2017 to 2018, we measured the reproductive phenology (leaf out, flower bud, flower and fruit time) and maximum height of 15 common alpine plants (account more than 80% of the total above biomass) under non-competitive condition via common garden experiment.

Important findings Our results showed that: (1) Experimental warming significantly advanced the leaf out, flower bud and first flowering day of legumes by (8.21 ± 1.81), (9.14 ± 2.41) and (10.14 ± 2.05) d, respectively. In addition, warming significantly prolonged the flowering duration of legumes by (6.14 ± 1.52) d. This result implied that different functional groups showed different responses under warming. The reproductive phenology of most alpine plants advanced, and the flowering duration was prolonged under warming, suggesting that more resources was allocated to reproductive growth. (2) In addition, experimental warming significantly reduced the height of forbs by (3.58 ± 0.96) cm, but not of other functional groups. Different species have differential responses to warming in different year. In summary, the alpine plant community on the Qingzang Plateau may start the reproductive stage earlier, hence reducing the resource allocation for vegetative growth under future warming conditions. In addition, due to different responses of the reproductive capacity and vegetative growth of various species to temperature change, climate warming may change the coverage of various species, and then alter the composition of species in the community, and then change the function of alpine ecosystem.

Key words: alpine plant, climate change, infrared heating, reproductive phenology, vegetative growth, Qingzang Plateau