Chin J Plant Ecol ›› 2023, Vol. 47 ›› Issue (1): 41-50.DOI: 10.17521/cjpe.2022.0123

Special Issue: 青藏高原植物生态学:种群生态学

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Geographical distribution characteristics and influencing factors of plant survival strategies in an alpine grassland

LIN Ma-Zhen1,2, HUANG Yong1,*(), LI Yang3, SUN Jian2,*()   

  1. 1Institute of International Rivers and Eco-security, Yunnan University, Kunming 650091, China
    2State Key Laboratory of Tibetan Plateau Earth System, Resources and Environment, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
    3College of Grassland, Resource and Environment, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, Hohhot 010011, China
  • Received:2022-04-07 Accepted:2022-07-05 Online:2023-01-20 Published:2022-08-20
  • Contact: *HUANG Yong(Huang Y,;SUN Jian(
  • Supported by:
    Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) Program of China(2019QZKK0405);Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research (STEP) Program of China(2019QZKK0307);National Natural Science Foundation of China(41871040)


Aims Vegetation traits are one of the research hotspots in plant ecology and they reflect the strategies of plant survival. According to the CSR survival strategy model, plant species may be classified into three categories: C strategy that can maximize biomass in resource-rich environments (competitive species); R strategy that can rapidly intake resources and reproduce in environments with a high frequency of disturbance (opportunistic species); and S strategy that can maintain individual survival in resource-poor environments (tolerant species). Leaf traits have adaptive changes in response to environmental gradients, which have impacts on plant adaptation. The mechanisms of how leaf traits affect CSR survival strategies in the alpine grassland of Qingzang Plateau remain unclear. The objective of this paper is to investigate the spatial patterns of CSR survival strategies of alpine plants and the mechanisms by which environmental factors influence plant survival.
Methods We surveyed a field transect which consists of 53 sample sites in an alpine grassland on the Qingzang Plateau from July to August 2020. Vegetation traits of leaf area, leaf fresh mass, and leaf dry mass were measured and C, S, R values were calculated. Finally, we analyzed the critical drivers and mechanism of plant CSR strategies in response to geographical elements.
Important findings Our results showed that: (1) In the alpine grassland of the Qingzang Plateau, 41.6%-96.7% of plants are identified as S strategy. (2) With the increase of the longitude, the proportion of C strategy plants increased gradually from the west to the east, whereas along the altitude gradient, the proportion of C strategy plants decreased with the increasing altitude. (3) Random forest analysis showed that the contribution of precipitation to C strategy is the highest (25.74%), and the contribution of altitude to S strategy is the highest (27.34%). Additionally, both precipitation and temperature had significant effects on leaf area, and leaf water content significantly affects plant CSR strategies. In summary, results of our study highlighted that precipitation is the most critical factor that governs plant CSR survival strategies. This finding has important implications for studying the ecological adaptation along environmental gradients in alpine grasslands.

Key words: CSR strategy, leaf trait, environmental gradient, Qingzang Plateau, alpine grassland