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Frontiers of Earth Science

Front. Earth Sci.    2015, Vol. 9 Issue (2) : 268-275     DOI: 10.1007/s11707-014-0475-2
Vegetation types and climate conditions reflected by the modern phytolith assemblages in the subalpine Dalaoling Forest Reserve, central China
Djakanibé Désiré TRAORÉ1,Yansheng GU1,2,*(),Humei LIU1,2,Ceven SHEMSANGA1,Jiwen GE2,*
1. State Key Laboratory of Biogeology and Environmental Geology, China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China
2. Hubei Key Laboratory of Wetland Evolution & Eco-Restoration (WEER), China University of Geosciences, Wuhan 430074, China
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This research describes modern phytolith records and distributions from subalpine surface soils in the Dalaoling Forest Reserve, and reveals its implications for local climate conditions with respect to the altitude gradient. Well-preserved phytolith morpho-types, assemblages, and climatic indices were used to study the relationship between local vegetation and climate conditions. The phytolith classification system is mainly based on the characteristics of detailed morpho-types described for anatomical terms, which are divided into seven groups: long cells, short cells, bulliform cells, hair cells, pteridophyte type, broad-leaved type, and gymnosperm type. Phytoliths originating from the Poaceae are composed of Pooideae (rondel and trapeziform), Panicoideae (bilobate, cross, and polylobate), Chloridoideae (short/square saddle), and Bambusoideae (oblong concave saddle). Based on the altitudinal distribution of the phytolith assemblages and the indices of aridity (Iph), climate (Ic), and tree cover density (D/P), five phytolith assemblage zones have revealed the five types of climatic conditions ranging from 1,169 m to 2,005 m in turn: warm-wet, warm-xeric to warm-mesic, warm- xeric to cool-mesic, cool-xeric, and cool-mesic to cool-xeric. The Bambusoideae, Panicoideae, and Chloridoideae are the dominant vegetation at the lower-middle of the mountains, while Pooideae is mainly distributed in the higher mountains. The close relationship between phytolith assembleages and changes of altitude gradient suggest that vegetation distribution patterns and plant ecology in the Dalaoling mountains are controlled by temperature and humidity conditions. Our results highlight the importance of phytolith records as reliable ecoclimatic indicators for vegetation ecology in subtropical regions.

Keywords central China      subalpine surface soil      phytolith records      vegetation      and climate change     
Corresponding Authors: Yansheng GU,Jiwen GE   
Online First Date: 14 November 2014    Issue Date: 30 April 2015
 Cite this article:   
Yansheng GU,Humei LIU,Ceven SHEMSANGA, et al. Vegetation types and climate conditions reflected by the modern phytolith assemblages in the subalpine Dalaoling Forest Reserve, central China[J]. Front. Earth Sci., 2015, 9(2): 268-275.
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Yansheng GU
Humei LIU
Djakanibé Désiré TRAORé
Jiwen GE
Fig.1  (a)Map showing the location of the Dalaoling Forest Reserve in China, and (b) showing the sampling sites along altitude gradient
Samples Elevation/m Zonal vegetation Dominant plant species Soil type
DLL-1 2,005 Deciduous broad-leaved and coniferous mixed forest Acer davidii, Acer oliverianum, Aralia chinensis, Buddleja lindleyana, Cirsium chrysolepis, Cornus controversa, Corylopsis sinensis, Corylus chinensis, Corylus ferox var. thibetica, Corylus heterophylla var. sutchuanensis, Daucus carota, Eleutherococcus senticosus, Elsholtzia splendens, Euonymus phellomana, Exochorda racemosa, Galium bungei, Helwingia japonica, Hydrangea anomala, Parasenecio forrestii, Quercus spinosa, Spiraea chinensis, Viburnum sympodiale Mountain brown soil
DLL-2 1,919 As the above
DLL-3 1,791 As the above
DLL-4 1,739 As the above
DLL-5 1,729 Berberis julianae, Bletilla striata, Castanea henryi, Fagus engleriana, Fagus pashanica, Indocalamus tessellatus,Liriodendron chinensis, Quercus aliena var. acuteserrata, Quercus spinosa, Quercus engleriana, Serissa serissoides, Symplocos paniculata
DLL-6 1,721 As the above
DLL-7 1,680 Evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forest Aletrts spicata, Aralia chinensis, Corylopsis sinensis var. sinensis, Euphorbia pekinensis, Indocalamus tesseltatus, Litsea pungens Hemsl, Litsea shangensis,Pinus armandi
DLL-8 1,626 As the above Mountain yellow-brown soil
DLL-9 1,559 Fagus lucida, Fagus longipetiolata, Fagus engleriana, Symplocos paniculata, Hydrangea macrophylla, Rhododendron fortunei, Kerria japonica, Pilea notata, Dryopteris panda, Arthraxon hispidus
DLL-10 1,494 Acer davidii, Acer flabellatum, Carpinus turczaninowii, Castanea henryi, Castanea seguinii, Cerasus conradinae, Cornus kousa subsp. chinensis, Elaeagnus umbellate, Fagus engleriana, Hamamelis mollis, Lindera obtusiloba, Litsea pungens, Pinus armandii, Serissa serissoides, Symplocos paniculata, Viburnum punctatum
DLL-11 1,423 Cercidiphyllum japonicum, Davidia involucrate, Davidia involucrate var. vilmoriniana, Dipteronia sinensis, Euptelea pleiosperma, Kolkwitzia amabilis, Kalopanax septemlobus, Pterostyrax psilophyllus, Stewartia sinensis
DLL-12 1,374 As the above
DLL-13 1,371 As the above
DLL-14 1,336 Actinidia chinensis, Albizia julibrissin, Aralia chinensis, Arisaema erubescens, Arthraxon hispidus, Betula luminifera, Bletilla striata, Carya cathayensis, Castanea seguinii, Cornus kousa subsp. chinensis, Cunninghamia lanceolata, Duchesnea indica, Erigeron annuus, Euscaphis japonica, Glochidion puberum, Lonicera japonica, Osmunda japonica, Parathelypteris glanduligera, Platycarya strobilacea, Polygonum perfoliatum, Polypogon fugax, Pueraria montana, Quercus serrata, Quercus serrata var. brevipetiolata, Ranunculus sieboldii, Rhus chinensis, Rubus corchorifolius, Smilax china, Spiraea salicifolia, Stellaria media
DLL-15 1,314 As the above
DLL-16 1,272 As the above
DLL-17 1,239 As the above
DLL-18 1,169 As the above Mountain yellow soil
Tab.1  18 surface soil samples and related vegetation, dominant plant species, and soil types
Fig.2  Major phytolith morphotypes from surface soils in the subalpine Dalaoling Forest Reserve (scale bar is 20 μm). (1?2) bilobates; (3?5) crosses; (6?7) cylindrical polylobates; (8?13) rondels; (14) trapeziform polylobate (Pooideae type); (15) trapeziform sinuate (Pooideae type); (16?17) oblong concave saddles; (18?19) square saddles; (20?21) elongate smooth; (22) elongate echinate); (23) parallelepipedal bulliform cells; (24?26) cuneiform bulliform cells; (27?28) unciform hair cell (grass type); (29) parallelepipedal contorted (gymnosperm type); (30?31) tri-stellate truncate (gymnosperm type); (32?33) vascular tissue; (34?35) tri-stellate truncate (broad-leaved tree type); (36?37) polyhedrons with conical projection (Cyperaceae, Cyperus sp.) (Piperno, 1989; Gu et al., 2008); (38) globular smooth; (39?40) globular echinate; (41) globular granulate; (42) platelet polygon (broad-leaved tree type); (43): opaque perforated platelet (Asteraceae)
Fig.3  Distribution of phytolith assemblages and indices for vegetation and climate change with elevation change.

Climatic index Ic, is a ratio of Pooideae to total Pooideae, Panicoideae, and Chloridoideae phytoliths; Aridity index, Iph, is a ratio of Chloridoideae to total Chloridoideae and Panicoideae phytoliths; Tree cover density index, D/P, is the ratio of ligneous dicotyledons phytoliths against Poaceae phytoliths.

EDBF = Evergreen and deciduous broad-leaved forest; DBCMF = Deciduous broad-leaved and coniferous mixed forest; MYS = Mountain yellow soil; MYBS = Mountain yellow-brown soil; MBS = Mountain brown soil

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