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Biomass carbon stocks and their changes in northern China’s grasslands during 1982–2006

DOI: 10.1007/s11427-010-4020-6

Keywords: above-ground biomass,alpine grasslands,below-ground biomass,carbon stock,NDVI,temperate grasslands

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Grassland covers approximately one-third of the area of China and plays an important role in the global terrestrial carbon (C) cycle. However, little is known about biomass C stocks and dynamics in these grasslands. During 2001–2005, we conducted five consecutive field sampling campaigns to investigate above-and below-ground biomass for northern China’s grasslands. Using measurements obtained from 341 sampling sites, together with a NDVI (normalized difference vegetation index) time series dataset over 1982–2006, we examined changes in biomass C stock during the past 25 years. Our results showed that biomass C stock in northern China’s grasslands was estimated at 557.5 Tg C (1 Tg=1012 g), with a mean density of 39.5 g C m 2 for above-ground biomass and 244.6 g C m 2 for below-ground biomass. An increasing rate of 0.2 Tg C yr 1 has been observed over the past 25 years, but grassland biomass has not experienced a significant change since the late 1980s. Seasonal rainfall (January–July) was the dominant factor driving temporal dynamics in biomass C stock; however, the responses of grassland biomass to climate variables differed among various grassland types. Biomass in arid grasslands (i.e., desert steppe and typical steppe) was significantly associated with precipitation, while biomass in humid grasslands (i.e., alpine meadow) was positively correlated with mean January-July temperatures. These results suggest that different grassland ecosystems in China may show diverse responses to future climate changes.


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