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Response of biomass spatial pattern of alpine vegetation to climate change in permafrost region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China

Research paper by Yu Zhang, Genxu Wang, Yibo Wang

Indexed on: 09 Nov '10Published on: 09 Nov '10Published in: Journal of mountain science



Abstract

Alpine ecosystems in permafrost region are extremely sensitive to climate changes. To determine spatial pattern variations in alpine meadow and alpine steppe biomass dynamics in the permafrost region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, China, calibrated with historical datasets of above-ground biomass production within the permafrost region’s two main ecosystems, an ecosystem-biomass model was developed by employing empirical spatialdistribution models of the study region’s precipitation, air temperature and soil temperature. This model was then successfully used to simulate the spatio-temporal variations in annual alpine ecosystem biomass production under climate change. For a 0.44°C decade-1 rise in air temperature, the model predicted that the biomasses of alpine meadow and alpine steppe remained roughly the same if annual precipitation increased by 8 mm per decade−1, but the biomasses were decreased by 2.7% and 2.4%, respectively if precipitation was constant. For a 2.2°C decade−1 rise in air temperature coupled with a 12 mm decade−1 rise in precipitation, the model predicted that the biomass of alpine meadow was unchanged or slightly increased, while that of alpine steppe was increased by 5.2%. However, in the absence of any rise in precipitation, the model predicted 6.8% and 4.6% declines in alpine meadow and alpine steppe biomasses, respectively. The response of alpine steppe biomass to the rising air temperatures and precipitation was significantly lesser and greater, respectively than that of alpine meadow biomass. A better understanding of the difference in alpine ecosystem biomass production under climate change is greatly significant with respect to the influence of climate change on the carbon and water cycles in the permafrost regions of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau.