Table_1_Productivity and Quality of Alpine Grassland Vary With Soil Water Availability Under Experimental Warming.DOCX
The plant productivity of alpine meadow is predicted to generally increase under a warming climate, but it remains unclear whether the positive response rates will vary with soil water availability. Without consideration of the response of community composition and plant quality, livestock grazing under the current stocking rate might still lead to grassland degradation, even in meadows with high plant biomass. We have conducted a warming experiment from 2010 to 2017 to examine the interactive effects of warming and soil water availability on plant growth and forage quality at individual and functional group levels in an alpine meadow located in the permafrost region of the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau. Warming-induced changes in community composition, biomass, and forage quality varied with soil water availability. Under dry conditions, experimental warming reduced the relative importance of grasses and the aboveground biomass by 32.37 g m−2 but increased the importance value of forbs. It also increased the crude fat by 0.68% and the crude protein by 3.19% at the end of summer but decreased the acid detergent fiber by 5.59% at the end of spring. The increase in crude fat and protein and the decrease in acid detergent fiber, but the decrease in aboveground biomass and increase the importance value of forbs, which may imply a deterioration of the grassland. Under wet conditions, warming increased aboveground biomass by 29.49 g m−2 at the end of spring and reduced acid detergent fiber by 8.09% at the end of summer. The importance value of grasses and forbs positively correlated with the acid detergent fiber and crude protein, respectively. Our results suggest that precipitation changes will determine whether climate warming will benefit rangelands on the Qinghai–Tibetan Plateau, with drier conditions suppressing grassland productivity, but wetter conditions increasing production while preserving forage quality.