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Spatial relationships among soil nutrients, plant biodiversity and aboveground biomass in the Inner Mongolia grassland, China

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The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) is a central issue in ecology, and a number of recent field experimental studies have greatly improved our understanding of this relationship. Spatial heterogeneity is a ubiquitous characterization of ecosystem processes,

The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning (BEF) is a central issue in ecology, and a number of recent field experimental studies have greatly improved our understanding of this relationship. Spatial heterogeneity is a ubiquitous characterization of ecosystem processes, and has played a significant role in shaping BEF relationships. The first step towards understanding the effects of spatial heterogeneity on the BEF relationships is to quantify spatial heterogeneity characteristics of key variables of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, and identify the spatial relationships among these variables. The goal of our research was to address the following research questions based on data collected in 2005 (corresponding to the year when the initial site background information was conducted) and in 2008 (corresponding to the year when removal treatments were conducted) from the Inner Mongolia Grassland Removal Experiment (IMGRE) located in northern China: 1) What are the spatial patterns of soil nutrients, plant biodiversity, and aboveground biomass in a natural grassland community of Inner Mongolia, China? How are they related spatially? and 2) How do removal treatments affect the spatial patterns of soil nutrients, plant biodiversity, and aboveground biomass? Is there any change for their spatial correlations after removal treatments? Our results showed that variables of biodiversity and ecosystem functioning in the natural grassland community would present different spatial patterns, and they would be spatially correlated to each other closely. Removal treatments had a significant effect on spatial structures and spatial correlations of variables, compared to those prior to the removal treatments. The differences in spatial pattern of plant and soil variables and their correlations before and after the biodiversity manipulation may not imply that the results from BEF experiments like IMGRE are invalid. However, they do suggest that the possible effects of spatial heterogeneity on the BEF relationships should be critically evaluated in future studies.

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Date Created
2011

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Ecosystem spatial heterogeneity: formation, consequences, and feedbacks

Description

An understanding of the formation of spatial heterogeneity is important because spatial heterogeneity leads to functional consequences at the ecosystem scale; however, such an understanding is still limited. Particularly, research simultaneously considering both external variables and internal feedbacks (self-organization) is

An understanding of the formation of spatial heterogeneity is important because spatial heterogeneity leads to functional consequences at the ecosystem scale; however, such an understanding is still limited. Particularly, research simultaneously considering both external variables and internal feedbacks (self-organization) is rare, partly because these two drivers are addressed under different methodological frameworks. In this dissertation, I show the prevalence of internal feedbacks and their interaction with heterogeneity in the preexisting template to form spatial pattern. I use a variety of techniques to account for both the top-down template effect and bottom-up self-organization. Spatial patterns of nutrients in stream surface water are influenced by the self-organized patch configuration originating from the internal feedbacks between nutrient concentration, biological patchiness, and the geomorphic template. Clumps of in-stream macrophyte are shaped by the spatial gradient of water permanence and local self-organization. Additionally, significant biological interactions among plant species also influence macrophyte distribution. The relative contributions of these drivers change in time, responding to the larger external environments or internal processes of ecosystem development. Hydrologic regime alters the effect of geomorphic template and self-organization on in-stream macrophyte distribution. The relative importance of niche vs. neutral processes in shaping biodiversity pattern is a function of hydrology: neutral processes are more important in either very high or very low discharge periods. For the spatial pattern of nutrients, as the ecosystem moves toward late succession and nitrogen becomes more limiting, the effect of self-organization intensifies. Changes in relative importance of different drivers directly affect ecosystem macroscopic properties, such as ecosystem resilience. Stronger internal feedbacks in average to wetter years are shown to increase ecosystem resistance to elevated external stress, and make the backward shifts (vegetation loss) much more gradual. But it causes increases in ecosystem hysteresis effect. Finally, I address the question whether functional consequences of spatial heterogeneity feed back to influence the processes from which spatial heterogeneity emerged through a conceptual review. Such feedbacks are not likely. Self-organized spatial patterning is a result of regular biological processes of organisms. Individual organisms do not benefit from such order. It is order for free, and for nothing.

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Date Created
2015