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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (6): 852-859    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-015-0084-2
Brief Communication     
Impact of great gerbils (Rhombomys opimus) on desert plant communities
XU Wenxuan1, LIU Wei2, YANG Weikang1, WANG Muyang1, XU Feng1, David BLANK1
1 Key laboratory of Biogeography and Bioresources in Arid Lands, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China;
2 College of Life Science and Technology, Southwest University for Nationalities, Chengdu 610043, China
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Abstract  Great gerbil (Rhombomys opimus) colonies, with bare soil and herbaceous plants, are conspicuous to the background environment throughout their range area. In order to quantify the engineer role of great gerbils, we investigated the plant communities of 20 active colonies in the Junggar Basin, Xinjiang, China. In areas without disturbance, desert plant communities were dominated by the shrubs with low level species richness. In burrow areas and surrounding intermediate areas, which were disturbed by great gerbils, the shrubs were suppressed with the decrease of vegetation cover and aboveground biomass. As a result, “niche gaps” were created in disturbed areas and worked as a refuge for herbaceous annuals and perennials. So the existence of great gerbils increased the overall species richness of the desert. Furthermore, herbaceous annuals and perennials are the major food source for great gerbils in spring, indicating that great gerbils have a mutually beneficial relationship with herbaceous plants.

Key wordsevapotranspiration      soil moisture      event scale      empirical analysis      Italy     
Received: 27 January 2015      Published: 10 December 2015

The National Basic Research Program of China (2014CB954204), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (30970476) and the Western Light Program of the Chinese Academy of Sci-ences (XBBS201309)

Corresponding Authors: YANG Weikang     E-mail:
Cite this article:

XU Wenxuan, LIU Wei, YANG Weikang, WANG Muyang, XU Feng, David BLANK. Impact of great gerbils (Rhombomys opimus) on desert plant communities. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(6): 852-859.

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