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  • Spatial Relationships among Soil Nutrients,

    Plant Biodiversity and Aboveground Biomass

    in the Inner Mongolia Grassland, China

    by

    Fei Yuan

    A Thesis Presented in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree

    Master of Science

    Approved June 2011 by the Graduate Supervisory Committee:

    Jianguo (Jingle) Wu, Chair

    Helen I. Rowe Andrew T. Smith

    ARIZONA STATE UNIVERSITY

    August 2011

  •  

      i  

    ABSTRACT

    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

  •  

      ii  

    and spatial correlations of variables, compared to those prior to the removal

    treatments. The differences in spatial patterns 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.

  •  

      iii  

    ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

    First and foremost, I express my appreciation for the guidance and

    patience provided by my advisor Dr. Jianguo Wu. He is a model advisor and

    taught me many things. Without his help and support, this thesis could never

    have been completed.

    I would also like to thank my committee members, Dr. Helen Rowe and

    Dr. Andrew Smith, for their guidance during the development of this research and

    their comments on earlier draft of this document. Also, I must thank them for

    agreeing on working on thesis committee in a very short notice, and giving me so

    much support for completing my thesis work.

    For data collection, I would like to express my appreciation to professors

    and graduate students at Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, who

    participated in the fieldwork of the IMGRE project, especially Xingguo Han,

    Yongfei Bai, Jianhui Huang, Xiaotao Lv, Meng Wang, and Qiang Yu. I also

    thank Ang Li for providing valuable advice for statistical analysis.

    I would also like to thank all of my former and current labmates for their

    encouragement and support during my graduate school years at ASU. They

    include: Jeff Ackley, Alex Buyantuyev, Christopher M. Clark, Lisa Dirks, Zhibin

    Jia, Cheng Li, Junxiang Li, Cunzhu Liang, Jennifer Litteral, Fengqiao Liu,

    Kaesha Neil, Ronald Pope, Guixia Qian, Tracy Shoumaker, Yu Tian, Hong Xiao,

    Qi Yang, Chengbo Yi, Ge Zhang, Jing Zhang, and Ting Zhou.

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      iv  

    Finally, my most emotional thanks go to my parents for their patience and

    understanding of my study in the US. I could not take care of them much when I

    was studying here, and I am indebted to them a lot. I love you both forever.

  •  

      v  

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    Page

    LIST OF TABLES……………………………………………………………….viii

    LIST OF FIGURES……………………………………………………………….ix

    CHAPTER

    1 INTRODUCTION: IMPORTANCE OF SPATIAL

    HETEROGENEITY IN UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP

    BETWEEN IODIVERSITY AND ECOSYSTEM

    FUNCTIONING……………………………………………………..1

    Introduction………………………………………………….1

    The relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem functioning...3

    Effects of spatial heterogeneity on the BEF relationships……….7

    2 SPATIAL PATTERNS OF SOIL NUTRIENTS, PLANT DIVERSITY,

    AND ABOVEGROUND BIOMASS AND THEIR RELATIONSHIPS

    IN A NATURAL GRASSLAND COMMUNITY IN INNER

    MONGOLIA, CHINA……………………………………………….11

    Introduction……………………………………..……………….11

    Materials and methods……………………………………………14

    Study site and experimental design…………………………..14

    Vegetation sampling and measurements……….…………..17

    Soil sampling and measurement............................18

    Data analysis…………………………………………………19

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      vi  

    CHAPTER Page

    Results…………..………………………………………………23

    Summary statistics of variables………………………………23

    Spatial patterns of soil nutrients, plant biodiversity, and

    aboveground biomass……………………………………....24

    Correlations among soil nutrients, plant biodiversity, and

    aboveground biomass……………………………………….32

    Discussion………………………………………………..…….39

    Spatial structures of soil nutrients, plant diversity, and

    abvoeground biomass………………………………….....39

    Correlations among soil nutrients, plant biodiversity, and

    aboveground biomass………………………………………..43

    3 EFFECTS OF BIODIVERSITY REMOVAL ON THE SPATIAL

    PATTERN OF PLANT AND SOIL VARIABLES AND THEIR

    RELATIONSHIPS…………………………………………………..50

    Introduction………………………………………………………50

    Materials and methods……………………………………………52

    Study area……………………………………………...52

    Experimental design…………………………….………...52

    Biodiversity removal……………………………………….53

    Soil sampling and measurements……………………........54

    Data analysis……………………………………………...55

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      vii  

    CHAPTER Page

    Results ………………………………………………..…………58

    Descriptive summary of BEF variables in 2005 and in

    2008………………………………………………………...58

    Comparison of spatial patterns of soil nutrients, plant diversity

    and aboveground biomass between 2005 and

    2008………………………………………………………...58

    Comparing relationships among soil nutrients, biodiversity

    measures, and aboveground biomass before and after

    biodiversity removal………………………………………...72

    Discussion……………………….………………………………..79

    Spatial autocrrelaiton……………………………………......79

    Spatial correlations………………………………………….81

    4 CONCLUSION.……………………………………………………85

    Major research findings……………………………….…………85

    Significane and implications ……………………………………87

    Importance for BEF reseach…………………………...87

    Implications for grassland management………………….88

    REFERENCES…..……………………………………………………………91

  •  

      viii  

    LIST OF TABLES

    Table Page

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