Effects of rodent-induced land degradation on ecosystem carbon fluxes in an alpine meadow in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau, China
Abstract. The widespread land degradation in an alpine meadow ecosystem would affect ecosystem carbon (C) balance. Biomass, soil chemical properties and carbon dioxide (CO2) of six levels of degraded lands (D1–D6, according to the number of rodent holes and coverage) were investigated to examine the effects of rodent-induced land degradation on an alpine meadow ecosystem. Soil organic carbon (SOC), labile soil carbon (LC), total nitrogen (TN) and inorganic nitrogen (N) were obtained by chemical analysis. Soil respiration (Rs), net ecosystem exchange (NEE) and ecosystem respiration (ER) were measured by a Li-Cor 6400XT. Gross ecosystem production (GEP) was the sum of NEE and ER. Aboveground biomass (AGB) was based on a linear regression with coverage and plant height as independent variables. Root biomass (RB) was obtained by using a core method. Soil respiration, ER, GEP and AGB were significantly higher in slightly degraded (D3 and D6, group I) than in severely degraded land (D1, D2, D4 and D5, group II). Positive values of NEE average indicate that the alpine meadow ecosystem is a weak C sink during the growing season. The only significant difference was in ER among different degradation levels. Rs, ER and GEP were 38.2, 44.3 and 46.5% higher in group I than in group II, respectively. Similar difference of ER and GEP between the two groups resulted in an insignificant difference of NEE. Positive correlations of AGB with ER, NEE and GEP, and relatively small AGB and lower CO2 fluxes in group II, suggest the control of AGB on ecosystem CO2 fluxes. Correlations of RB with SOC, LC, TN and inorganic N indicate the regulation of RB on soil C and N with increasing number of rodent holes in an alpine meadow ecosystem in the permafrost region of the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau (QTP).