The effect of the physiological states of lactating vs. non-lactating (dry) on grazing behavior and herbage intake by yaks was examined in the summer season in the Qinghai alpine area under continuous stocking management. Intake rates were estimated over periods of 1 h by weighing the animals before and after grazing, retaining the feces and urine excreted, and applying a correction for insensible weight loss (the 1-h weight changes of yaks when non-eating before or after the intake rate measurement). It is hypothesized that the lactating yaks should eat more and spend more time eating than nonlactating yaks, because they expend more energy. In our experiment, there were no differences in the effect of physiological state (lactating vs. dry) of yaks observed on the rate of insensible weight loss, intake rate, grazing jaw movement rate, bites per grazing jaw movement, or bite mass. The dry yaks tended to eat more and spend more time eating than lactating yaks, but not significantly so. Compared with the dry yaks, the lactating yaks had a significantly lower bite rate and bites per bolus.
Climate change is likely to alter the relative abundances of plant functional groups and the interactions between plants and soil microbes that maintain alpine meadow ecosystems. However, little is known about how warming-induced alterations to aboveground biomass (AGB) affect soil nutrients and microbial communities. We investigated plant community characteristics in 2002–2009 and analyzed soil properties and the soil microbial community in 2007–2009 to study the effects of warming in Qinghai Province, China. Sampling involved the use of warmed open top chambers, the monitoring of plant community characteristics, the quantification of total and available amounts of soil nutrients, and the evaluation of microbial community composition using phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis. Experimental warming initially significantly increased the number of plant functional groups and plant community AGB; however, plant community diversity and species richness decreased. Nevertheless, all these variables stabilized over time. Fungal and bacterial abundance, total nitrogen, available nitrogen and soil organic matter increased with warming, while microbial PLFAs decreased. These findings demonstrated that climate change drivers and their interactions may cause changes in soil nutrients and the abundance and content of soil microbial PLFAs. Elevated temperature has strong effects on aboveground grass biomass. Surface conditions and disturbance affect the soil microbial communities of deep soil layers.
We investigated the effects of soil resources on species composition, plant diversity, and plant biomass in four alpine Kobresia meadow communities. Species diversity was lower in the Kobresia tibetica swamp meadow community than in the other three communities, but this community was characterized by the highest aboveground and belowground biomass and soil nutrients. Aboveground biomass was positively correlated with soil organic matter and soil total nitrogen in all four alpine meadow communities. The proportion of light fraction organic carbon (LFOC) was positively correlated with soil total organic carbon in all types of grassland. In alpine meadows, belowground biomass mostly occurred at 0-10 cm soil, as did soil nutrients. Community differences in plant species composition were reflected in biomass distribution. The highest total biomass (13,759 ± 497 g/m2) including above- and belowground biomass appeared in the sedge-dominated Kobresia tibetica swamp meadow community. Intermediate biomass (3,235 ± 142 g/m2, 2,645 ± 16 g/m2) was found in the Kobresia pygmaea swamp meadow and Potentilla fruticosa shrubs meadow community, dominated by forbs, sedges, and woody plants. The lowest biomass (2,433 ± 162 g/m2) was observed in the Kobresia humilis meadow, mainly dominated by forbs and grasses. The results indicated that fertility of the vegetation caused a decrease in plant species, increase in plant biomass, and also changes in species composition. Species traits (such as ability to respond to higher nutrient levels) as well as competitive interaction may determine ecosystem function (e.g., productivity). Plants with higher competitive ability would then have access to a greater proportion of available resources, leading to increased total resource uptake by roots, lower nutrient losses from the ecosystems, and increased aboveground and belowground biomass. The distribution of aboveground and belowground biomass is largely influenced by the plant species and growth forms within spatial gradients in soil moisture and edaphic conditions.