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Journal of Arid Land  2019, Vol. 11 Issue (5): 729-739    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-019-0062-1
Orginal Article     
Ecological biomass allocation strategies in plant species with different life forms in a cold desert, China
Lianlian FAN1,2,3, Junxiang DING4, Xuexi MA1,2, Yaoming LI1,2,*()
1 Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
2 Research Center for Ecology and Environment of Central Asia, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China
3 Fukang Station of Desert Ecology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Fukang 8315005, China
4 Chengdu Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
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Biomass allocation patterns among plant species are related to their adaptive ecological strategies. Ephemeral, ephemeroid and annual plant life forms represent three typical growth strategies of plants that grow in autumn and early spring in the cold deserts of China. These plants play an important role in reducing wind velocity in the desert areas. However, despite numerous studies, the strategies of biomass allocation among plant species with these three life forms remain contentious. In this study, we conducted a preliminary quadrat study during 2014-2016 in the southern part of the Gurbantunggut Desert, China, to investigate the allocation patterns of above-ground biomass (AGB) and below-ground biomass (BGB) at the individual level in 17 ephemeral, 3 ephemeroid and 4 annual plant species. Since ephemeral plants can germinate in autumn, we also compared biomass allocation patterns between plants that germinated in autumn 2015 and spring 2016 for 4 common ephemeral species. The healthy mature individual plants of each species were sampled and the AGB, BGB, total biomass (TB), leaf mass ratio (LMR) and root/shoot ratio (R/S) were calculated for 201 sample quadrats in the study area. We also studied the relationships between AGB and BGB of plants with the three different life forms (ephemeral, ephemeroid and annual). The mean AGB values of ephemeral, ephemeroid and annual plants were 0.806, 3.759 and 1.546 g/plant, respectively, and the mean BGB values were 0.106, 4.996 and 0.166 g/plant, respectively. The mean R/S value was significantly higher in ephemeroid plants (1.675) than in ephemeral (0.154) and annual (0.147) plants. The mean LMR was the highest in annual plants, followed by ephemeroid plants and ephemeral plants, reflecting the fact that annual plants allocate more biomass to leaves, associated with their longer life span. Biomass of ephemeral plants that germinated in autumn was significantly higher than those of corresponding plants that germinated in spring in terms of AGB, BGB and TB. However, the R/S value was similar in plants that germinated in autumn and spring. The slope of regression relationship between AGB and BGB differed significantly among the three plant life forms. These results support different biomass allocation hypotheses. Specifically, at the individual level, the AGB and BGB partitioning supports the allometric hypothesis for ephemeroid and annual plants and the isometric hypothesis for ephemeral plants.

Key wordsabove-ground biomass      below-ground biomass      plant life forms      herbaceous species      allometric hypothesis      isometric hypothesis      Gurbantunggut Desert     
Received: 08 September 2018      Published: 10 October 2019
Corresponding Authors: Yaoming LI     E-mail:
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The first and second authors contributed equally to this work.

Cite this article:

Lianlian FAN, Junxiang DING, Xuexi MA, Yaoming LI. Ecological biomass allocation strategies in plant species with different life forms in a cold desert, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(5): 729-739.

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