DOI: 10.1002/ece3.10919 ISSN: 2045-7758

Effects of short‐ and long‐term plant functional group loss on alpine meadow community structure and soil nutrients

Jingjing Wei, Huakun Zhou, Xinqing Shao, Jian Sun, Li Ma, Zhonghua Zhang, Ruimin Qin, Hongye Su, Xue Hu, Tao Chang, Zhengchen Shi, Haze Ade, Huichun Wang
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation
  • Ecology
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


The rapid loss of global biodiversity can greatly affect the normal functioning of ecosystems. However, how biodiversity losses affect plant community structure and soil nutrients is unclear. We conducted a field experiment to examine the short‐ and long‐term effects of removing plant functional groups (Gramineae, Cyperaceae, legumes, and forbs) on the interrelationships among the species diversity, productivity, community structure, and soil nutrients in an alpine meadow ecosystem at Menyuan County, Qinghai Province. The variations in the species richness, above‐ and belowground biomass of the community gradually decreased over time. Species richness and productivity were positively correlated, and this correlation tended to be increasingly significant over time. Removal of the Cyperaceae, legumes, and other forbs resulted in fewer Gramineae species in the community. Soil total nitrogen, phosphorus, organic matter, and moisture contents increased significantly in the legume removal treatment. The removal of other forbs led to the lowest negative cohesion values, suggesting that this community may have difficulty recovering its previous equilibrium state within a short time. The effects of species removal on the ecosystem were likely influenced by the species structure and composition within the community. Changes in the number of Gramineae species indicated that they were more sensitive and less resistant to plant functional group removal. Legume removal may also indirectly cause distinct community responses through starvation and compensation effects. In summary, species loss at the community level led to extensive species niche shifts, which caused community resource redistribution and significant changes in community structure.

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