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

Georg Miehe, Per Marten Schleuss, Elke Seeber, Wolfgang Babel, Tobias Biermann, Martin Braendle, Fahu Chen, Heinz Coners, Thomas Foken, Tobias Gerken, Hans F. Graf, Georg Guggenberger, Silke Hafner, Maika Holzapfel, Johannes Ingrisch, Yakov Kuzyakov, Zhongping Lai, Lukas Lehnert, Christoph Leuschner, Xiaogang LiJianquan Liu, Shibin Liu, Yaoming Ma, Sabine Miehe, Volker Mosbrugger, Henry J. Noltie, Joachim Schmidt, Sandra Spielvogel, Sebastian Unteregelsbacher, Yun Wang, Sandra Willinghöfer, Xingliang Xu, Yongping Yang, Shuren Zhang, Lars Opgenoorth, Karsten Wesche

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

17 Citations (Scopus)

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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)754-771
Number of pages18
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Volume648
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 15 2019

Fingerprint

Ecosystems
pasture
Soils
Degradation
degradation
Deterioration
ecosystem
clonal growth
Mammals
seed production
small mammal
rangeland
Climate change
competitiveness
Agriculture
Nutrients
vegetation cover
Rain
soil erosion
Seed

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution

Cite this

Miehe, Georg ; Schleuss, Per Marten ; Seeber, Elke ; Babel, Wolfgang ; Biermann, Tobias ; Braendle, Martin ; Chen, Fahu ; Coners, Heinz ; Foken, Thomas ; Gerken, Tobias ; Graf, Hans F. ; Guggenberger, Georg ; Hafner, Silke ; Holzapfel, Maika ; Ingrisch, Johannes ; Kuzyakov, Yakov ; Lai, Zhongping ; Lehnert, Lukas ; Leuschner, Christoph ; Li, Xiaogang ; Liu, Jianquan ; Liu, Shibin ; Ma, Yaoming ; Miehe, Sabine ; Mosbrugger, Volker ; Noltie, Henry J. ; Schmidt, Joachim ; Spielvogel, Sandra ; Unteregelsbacher, Sebastian ; Wang, Yun ; Willinghöfer, Sandra ; Xu, Xingliang ; Yang, Yongping ; Zhang, Shuren ; Opgenoorth, Lars ; Wesche, Karsten. / The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan highlands – Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem : Kobresia pastures of Tibet. In: Science of the Total Environment. 2019 ; Vol. 648. pp. 754-771.
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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",
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 = "Georg Miehe and Schleuss, {Per Marten} and Elke Seeber and Wolfgang Babel and Tobias Biermann and Martin Braendle and Fahu Chen and Heinz Coners and Thomas Foken and Tobias Gerken and Graf, {Hans F.} and Georg Guggenberger and Silke Hafner and Maika Holzapfel and Johannes Ingrisch and Yakov Kuzyakov and Zhongping Lai and Lukas Lehnert and Christoph Leuschner and Xiaogang Li and Jianquan Liu and Shibin Liu and Yaoming Ma and Sabine Miehe and Volker Mosbrugger and Noltie, {Henry J.} and Joachim Schmidt and Sandra Spielvogel and Sebastian Unteregelsbacher and Yun Wang and Sandra Willingh{\"o}fer and Xingliang Xu and Yongping Yang and Shuren Zhang and Lars Opgenoorth and Karsten Wesche",
year = "2019",
month = "1",
day = "15",
doi = "10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.164",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "648",
pages = "754--771",
journal = "Science of the Total Environment",
issn = "0048-9697",
publisher = "Elsevier",

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Miehe, G, Schleuss, PM, Seeber, E, Babel, W, Biermann, T, Braendle, M, Chen, F, Coners, H, Foken, T, Gerken, T, Graf, HF, Guggenberger, G, Hafner, S, Holzapfel, M, Ingrisch, J, Kuzyakov, Y, Lai, Z, Lehnert, L, Leuschner, C, Li, X, Liu, J, Liu, S, Ma, Y, Miehe, S, Mosbrugger, V, Noltie, HJ, Schmidt, J, Spielvogel, S, Unteregelsbacher, S, Wang, Y, Willinghöfer, S, Xu, X, Yang, Y, Zhang, S, Opgenoorth, L & Wesche, K 2019, 'The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan highlands – Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem: Kobresia pastures of Tibet', Science of the Total Environment, vol. 648, pp. 754-771. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.164

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; Braendle, Martin; Chen, Fahu; Coners, Heinz; Foken, Thomas; Gerken, Tobias; Graf, Hans F.; Guggenberger, Georg; Hafner, Silke; Holzapfel, Maika; Ingrisch, Johannes; Kuzyakov, Yakov; Lai, Zhongping; Lehnert, Lukas; Leuschner, Christoph; Li, Xiaogang; Liu, Jianquan; Liu, Shibin; Ma, Yaoming; Miehe, Sabine; Mosbrugger, Volker; Noltie, Henry J.; Schmidt, Joachim; Spielvogel, Sandra; Unteregelsbacher, Sebastian; Wang, Yun; Willinghöfer, Sandra; Xu, Xingliang; Yang, Yongping; Zhang, Shuren; Opgenoorth, Lars; Wesche, Karsten.

In: Science of the Total Environment, Vol. 648, 15.01.2019, p. 754-771.

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

TY - JOUR

T1 - The Kobresia pygmaea ecosystem of the Tibetan highlands – Origin, functioning and degradation of the world's largest pastoral alpine ecosystem

T2 - Kobresia pastures of Tibet

AU - Miehe, Georg

AU - Schleuss, Per Marten

AU - Seeber, Elke

AU - Babel, Wolfgang

AU - Biermann, Tobias

AU - Braendle, Martin

AU - Chen, Fahu

AU - Coners, Heinz

AU - Foken, Thomas

AU - Gerken, Tobias

AU - Graf, Hans F.

AU - Guggenberger, Georg

AU - Hafner, Silke

AU - Holzapfel, Maika

AU - Ingrisch, Johannes

AU - Kuzyakov, Yakov

AU - Lai, Zhongping

AU - Lehnert, Lukas

AU - Leuschner, Christoph

AU - Li, Xiaogang

AU - Liu, Jianquan

AU - Liu, Shibin

AU - Ma, Yaoming

AU - Miehe, Sabine

AU - Mosbrugger, Volker

AU - Noltie, Henry J.

AU - Schmidt, Joachim

AU - Spielvogel, Sandra

AU - Unteregelsbacher, Sebastian

AU - Wang, Yun

AU - Willinghöfer, Sandra

AU - Xu, Xingliang

AU - Yang, Yongping

AU - Zhang, Shuren

AU - Opgenoorth, Lars

AU - Wesche, Karsten

PY - 2019/1/15

Y1 - 2019/1/15

N2 - 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.

AB - 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.

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U2 - 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2018.08.164

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