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Comparative Assessment of Tundra Vegetation Changes Between North and Southwest Slopes of Changbai Mountains, China, in Response to Global Warming

Jin, Yinghua, Zhang, Yingjie, Xu, Jiawei, Tao, Yan, He, Hongshi, Guo, Meng, Wang, Ailin, Liu, Yuxia, Niu, Liping
Chinese geographical science 2018 v.28 no.4 pp. 665-679
altitude, global warming, growing season, herbaceous plants, microclimate, mountains, plant communities, shrubs, soil fertility, species diversity, temperature, topographic slope, tundra, China
Vegetation in high altitude areas normally exhibits the strongest response to global warming. We investigated the tundra vegetation on the Changbai Mountains and revealed the similarities and differences between the north and the southwest slopes of the Changbai Mountains in response to global warming. Our results were as follows: 1) The average temperatures in the growing season have increased from 1981 to 2015, the climate tendency rate was 0.38°C/10yr, and there was no obvious change in precipitation observed. 2) The tundra vegetation of the Changbai Mountains has changed significantly over the last 30 years. Specifically, herbaceous plants have invaded into the tundra zone, and the proportion of herbaceous plants was larger than that of shrubs. Shrub tundra was transforming into shrub-grass tundra. 3) The tundra vegetation in the north and southwest slopes of the Changbai Mountains responded differently to global warming. The southwest slope showed a significantly higher degree of invasion from herbaceous plants and exhibited greater vegetation change than the north slope. 4) The species diversity of plant communities on the tundra zone of the north slope changed unimodally with altitude, while that on the tundra zone of the southwest slope decreased monotonously with altitude. Differences in the degree of invasion from herbaceous plants resulted in differences in species diversity patterns between the north and southwest slopes. Differences in local microclimate, plant community successional stage and soil fertility resulted in differential responses of tundra vegetation to global warming.