Climatic Change

, Volume 86, Issue 3–4, pp 375–396 | Cite as

Carbon storage in the grasslands of China based on field measurements of above- and below-ground biomass

  • Jiangwen Fan
  • Huaping Zhong
  • Warwick Harris
  • Guirui Yu
  • Shaoqiang Wang
  • Zhongmin Hu
  • Yanzhen Yue


Above- and below-ground biomass values for 17 types of grassland communities in China as classified by the Chinese Grasslands Resources Survey were obtained from systematic replicated sampling at 78 sites and from published records from 146 sites. Most of the systematic samples were along a 5,000-km-long transect from Hailar, Inner Mongolia (49°15′N, 119°15′E), to Pulan, Tibet (30°15′N, 81°10′E). Above-ground biomass was separated into stem, leaf, flower and fruit, standing dead matter, and litter. Below-ground biomass was measured in 10-cm soil layers to a depth of 30 cm for herbs and to 50 cm for woody plants. Grassland type mean total biomass carbon densities ranged from 2.400 kg m−2 for swamp to 0.149 kg m−2 for alpine desert grasslands. Ratios of below- to above-ground carbon density varied widely from 0.99 for tropical tussock grassland to 52.28 for alpine meadow. Most below-ground biomass was in the 0–10 cm soil depth layer and there were large differences between grassland types in the proportions of living and dead matter and stem and leaf. Differences between grassland types in the amount and allocation of biomass showed patterns related to environments, especially aridity gradients. Comparisons of our estimates with other studies indicated that above-ground biomass, particularly forage-yield biomass, is a poor predictor of total vegetation carbon density. Our estimate for total carbon storage in the biomass of the grasslands of China was 3.32 Pg C, with 56.4% contained in the grasslands of the Tibet-Qinghai plateau and 17.9% in the northern temperate grasslands. The need for further standardized and systematic measurements of vegetation biomass to validate global carbon cycles is emphasised.


China Carbon storage Grassland communities Biomass components 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jiangwen Fan
    • 1
  • Huaping Zhong
    • 1
  • Warwick Harris
    • 2
  • Guirui Yu
    • 1
  • Shaoqiang Wang
    • 1
  • Zhongmin Hu
    • 1
  • Yanzhen Yue
    • 1
  1. 1.Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, CERN Center for Synthesis Research, Institute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources ResearchChinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  2. 2.Landcare ResearchLincolnNew Zealand

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