Journal cover Journal topic
Biogeosciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
Journal topic
Volume 9, issue 4
Biogeosciences, 9, 1277–1289, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-9-1277-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Biogeosciences, 9, 1277–1289, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/bg-9-1277-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 02 Apr 2012

Research article | 02 Apr 2012

Indirect drivers of plant diversity-productivity relationship in semiarid sandy grasslands

X. A. Zuo1,2, J. M. H. Knops3, X. Y. Zhao1,2, H. L. Zhao1,2, T. H. Zhang1,2, Y. Q. Li1,2, and Y. R. Guo1 X. A. Zuo et al.
  • 1Naiman Desertification Research Station, Cold and Arid Regions of Environmental and Engineering Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Lanzhou, 730000, China
  • 2Laboratory of Stress Ecophysiology and Biotechnology (LSEB), CAREERI, CAS, Lanzhou, 730000, China
  • 3School of Biological Sciences, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, 62588, USA

Abstract. Although patterns between plant diversity and ecosystem productivity have been much studied, a consistent relationship has not yet emerged. Differing patterns between plant diversity and productivity have been observed in response to spatial variability of environmental factors and vegetation composition. In this study, we measured vegetation cover, plant diversity, productivity, soil properties and site characteristics along an environmental gradient (mobile dune, semi-fixed dune, fixed dune, dry meadow, wet meadow and flood plain grasslands) of natural sandy grasslands in semiarid areas of northern China. We used multivariate analysis to examine the relationships between environmental factors, vegetation composition, plant diversity and productivity. We found a positive correlation between plant diversity and productivity. Vegetation composition aggregated by the ordination technique of non-metric multidimensional scaling had also a significantly positive correlation with plant diversity and productivity. Environmental gradients in relation to soil and topography affected the distribution patterns of vegetation composition, species diversity and productivity. However, environmental gradients were a better determinant of vegetation composition and productivity than of plant diversity. Structural equation modeling suggested that environmental factors determine vegetation composition, which in turn independently drives both plant diversity and productivity. Thus, the positive correlation between plant diversity and productivity is indirectly driven by vegetation composition, which is determined by environmental gradients in soil and topography.

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