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The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan highlands – Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem: Kobresia pastures of Tibet

Miehe, Georg; Schleuss, Per-marten; Seeber, Elke; Babel, Wolfgang; Biermann, Tobias LU ; Braendle, Martin; Chen, Fahu; Coners, Heinz; Foken, Thomas and Gerken, Tobias, et al. (2019) In Science of the Total Environment 648. p.754-771
Abstract
With 450,000 km2 Kobresia (syn. Carex) pygmaea dominated pastures in the eastern Tibetan highlands are the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem forming a durable turf cover at 3000–6000 m a.s.l. Kobresia's resilience and competitiveness is based on dwarf habit, predominantly below-ground allocation of photo assimilates, mixture of seed production and clonal growth, and high genetic diversity. Kobresia growth is co-limited by livestock-mediated nutrient withdrawal and, in the drier parts of the plateau, low rainfall during the short and cold growing season. Overstocking has caused pasture degradation and soil deterioration over most parts of the Tibetan highlands and is the basis for this man-made ecosystem. Natural autocyclic... (More)
With 450,000 km2 Kobresia (syn. Carex) pygmaea dominated pastures in the eastern Tibetan highlands are the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem forming a durable turf cover at 3000–6000 m a.s.l. Kobresia's resilience and competitiveness is based on dwarf habit, predominantly below-ground allocation of photo assimilates, mixture of seed production and clonal growth, and high genetic diversity. Kobresia growth is co-limited by livestock-mediated nutrient withdrawal and, in the drier parts of the plateau, low rainfall during the short and cold growing season. Overstocking has caused pasture degradation and soil deterioration over most parts of the Tibetan highlands and is the basis for this man-made ecosystem. Natural autocyclic processes of turf destruction and soil erosion are initiated through polygonal turf cover cracking, and accelerated by soil-dwelling endemic small mammals in the absence of predators. The major consequences of vegetation cover deterioration include the release of large amounts of C, earlier diurnal formation of clouds, and decreased surface temperatures. These effects decrease the recovery potential of Kobresia pastures and make them more vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure and climate change. Traditional migratory rangeland management was sustainable over millennia, and possibly still offers the best strategy to conserve and possibly increase C stocks in the Kobresia turf. (Less)
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@article{79c97a3b-030a-4d20-9870-cbecf38666ee,
  abstract     = {With 450,000 km2 Kobresia (syn. Carex) pygmaea dominated pastures in the eastern Tibetan highlands are the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem forming a durable turf cover at 3000–6000 m a.s.l. Kobresia's resilience and competitiveness is based on dwarf habit, predominantly below-ground allocation of photo assimilates, mixture of seed production and clonal growth, and high genetic diversity. Kobresia growth is co-limited by livestock-mediated nutrient withdrawal and, in the drier parts of the plateau, low rainfall during the short and cold growing season. Overstocking has caused pasture degradation and soil deterioration over most parts of the Tibetan highlands and is the basis for this man-made ecosystem. Natural autocyclic processes of turf destruction and soil erosion are initiated through polygonal turf cover cracking, and accelerated by soil-dwelling endemic small mammals in the absence of predators. The major consequences of vegetation cover deterioration include the release of large amounts of C, earlier diurnal formation of clouds, and decreased surface temperatures. These effects decrease the recovery potential of Kobresia pastures and make them more vulnerable to anthropogenic pressure and climate change. Traditional migratory rangeland management was sustainable over millennia, and possibly still offers the best strategy to conserve and possibly increase C stocks in the Kobresia turf.},
  author       = {Miehe, Georg and Schleuss, Per-marten and Seeber, Elke and Babel, Wolfgang and Biermann, Tobias and Braendle, Martin and Chen, Fahu and Coners, Heinz and Foken, Thomas and Gerken, Tobias and Graf, Hans-F. and Guggenberger, Georg and Hafner, Silke and Holzapfel, Maika and Ingrisch, Johannes and Kuzyakov, Yakov and Lai, Zhongping and Lehnert, Lukas and Leuschner, Christoph and Li, Xiaogang and Liu, Jianquan and Liu, Shibin and Ma, Yaoming and Miehe, Sabine and Mosbrugger, Volker and Noltie, Henry J. and Schmidt, Joachim and Spielvogel, Sandra and Unteregelsbacher, Sebastian and Wang, Yun and Willinghöfer, Sandra and Xu, Xingliang and Yang, Yongping and Zhang, Shuren and Opgenoorth, Lars and Wesche, Karsten},
  issn         = {0048-9697},
  keyword      = {Kobresia pygmaea,Tibet,alpine grassland,pasture,Carbon cycle,conservation,degradation},
  language     = {eng},
  month        = {01},
  pages        = {754--771},
  publisher    = {Elsevier},
  series       = {Science of the Total Environment},
  title        = {The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan highlands – Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem: Kobresia pastures of Tibet},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.164},
  volume       = {648},
  year         = {2019},
}