A water acquisition strategy may regulate the biomass and distribution of winter forage species in cold Asian rangeland

Ayumi Tanaka-Oda, Izuki Endo, Nobuhito Ohte, Deni Eer, Norikazu Yamanaka, Muneto Hirobe, G. U. Nachinshonhor, Asuka Koyama, Sergelenkhuu Jambal, Masanori Katsuyama, Takashi Nakamura, Naoko Matsuo, Undarmaa Jamsran, Toshiya Okuro, Ken Yoshikawa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Aboveground biomass is often restricted by water availability; therefore, water acquisition strategies have important roles in determining biomass volume and distribution under arid conditions. In cold Asian rangelands, the large tussock grass Achnatherum splendens is the most important forage for maintaining livestock under severe winter conditions. However, A. splendens distribution is restricted to the middle of the slopes of ephemeral streams, making it difficult to manage winter foraging. To understand the mechanisms behind the specific distribution and maintenance of a large A. splendens biomass under arid conditions, we established four typical vegetative plots along a riverside slope with different A. splendens density levels and elevations: river bottom with no A. splendens, riverbank with a large A. splendens community, upper slope with an isolated A. splendens community, and flat plain with no A. splendens. We measured the soil pH and electric conductivity (EC) of the plots and investigated the vertical biomass and root distribution of A. splendens. We also investigated the water source for the A. splendens communities using isotope techniques. The soil pH was not different among plots, while the soil EC was significantly higher in the river bottom because of salt accumulation. However, low soil EC levels were found under the A. splendens communities. In the ground below the A. splendens communities, plant stems were buried deeply. The belowground biomass and buried stem depths decreased at the sites of the isolated A. splendens communities in the upper slope. The aboveground biomass of A. splendens increased as the stem burial depths and, therefore, the adventitious roots depths increased. The water source of A. splendens was estimated to be at a depth of more than 30 cm. Thus, A. splendens prefers a habitat with a low level of soil salinity and a high level of water availability, which may increase with the sand burial depth because of the increasing accessibility of a substantial water source in the deeper soil layer. Sand burial may affect the water acquisition strategy and maintenance of large biomasses of tussock grass species that act as important winter forage in cold Asian rangelands.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere02511
JournalEcosphere
Volume9
Issue number12
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2018

Keywords

  • adventitious root
  • community development
  • dryland
  • key resource
  • sand burial

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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