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IJERPH, Vol. 15, Pages 109: Community Characteristics and Leaf Stoichiometric Traits of Desert Ecosystems Regulated by Precipitation and Soil in an Arid Area of China

10 Jan 2018

IJERPH, Vol. 15, Pages 109: Community Characteristics and Leaf Stoichiometric Traits of Desert Ecosystems Regulated by Precipitation and Soil in an Arid Area of China

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health doi: 10.3390/ijerph15010109

Authors:
Xiaolong Zhang
Tianyu Guan
Jihua Zhou
Wentao Cai
Nannan Gao
Hui Du
Lianhe Jiang
Liming Lai
Yuanrun Zheng

Precipitation is a key environmental factor determining plant community structure and function. Knowledge of how community characteristics and leaf stoichiometric traits respond to variation in precipitation is crucial for assessing the effects of global changes on terrestrial ecosystems. In this study, we measured community characteristics, leaf stoichiometric traits, and soil properties along a precipitation gradient (35–209 mm) in a desert ecosystem of Northwest China to explore the drivers of these factors. With increasing precipitation, species richness, aboveground biomass, community coverage, foliage projective cover (FPC), and leaf area index (LAI) all significantly increased, while community height decreased. The hyperarid desert plants were characterized by lower leaf carbon (C) and nitrogen/phosphorus (N/P) levels, and stable N and P, and these parameters did not change significantly with precipitation. The growth of desert plants was limited more by N than P. Soil properties, rather than precipitation, were the main drivers of desert plant leaf stoichiometric traits, whereas precipitation made the biggest contribution to vegetation structure and function. These results test the importance of precipitation in regulating plant community structure and composition together with soil properties, and provide further insights into the adaptive strategy of communities at regional scale in response to global climate change.

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