Plant biomass allocation and driving factors of grassland revegetation in a Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau chronosequence

Xiaoxia Gao, Shikui Dong*, Yudan Xu, Ellen L. Fry, Yu Li, Shuai Li, Hao Shen, Jiannan Xiao, Shengnan Wu, Mingyue Yang, Jing Zhang, Yangliu Zhi, Shiliang Liu, Zhanhuan Shang, Jane C. Yeomans

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)
21 Downloads (Pure)


Biomass allocation is a key factor in understanding how ecosystems respond to changing environmental conditions. The role of soil chemistry in the above- and belowground plant biomass allocation in restoring grassland is still incompletely characterized. Consequently, it has led to two competing hypotheses for biomass allocation: optimal partitioning, where the plants allocate biomass preferentially to optimize resource use; and the isometric hypothesis, which postulates that biomass allocation between roots and shoots is fixed. Here we tested these hypotheses over a chronosequence of alpine grasslandsion undergoing restoration in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, these range from severely degraded to those with 18 years of revegetation with an intact grassland (as a reference). A high proportion of biomass was allocated to the roots in the revegetated grasslands, and more biomass to shoots in the degraded and intact grasslands. The grasslands gradually decreased their root to shoot ratio as revegetation continued, with the lowest value in year 18 of revegetation. Our results showed that aboveground biomass (AGB) was increased by available phosphorus (P), soil moisture, and negatively related to bulk density, while belowground biomass (BGB) was positively impacted by total P and negatively by nitrate nitrogen (N). The trade-off between them was positively associated with available P and nitrate-N, and soil nutrient availability is more linked to increased AGB relative to BGB. Our study indicates that biomass allocation is highly variable during the revegetation period from degraded grassland, and is linked with soil properties, thus supporting the optimal partitioning hypothesis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1732-1741
Number of pages10
JournalLand Degradation and Development
Issue number4
Early online date5 Nov 2020
Publication statusPublished - 28 Feb 2021


  • biomass allocation
  • isometric allocation
  • optimal partitioning
  • revegetated grassland
  • structural equation model
  • trade-offs


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