Ecosystems can simultaneously provide multiple functions and services. Knowledge on the combinations of such multi-dimensional functions is critical for accurately assessing the carrying capacity and implementing sustainable management. However, accurately quantify the multifunctionality of ecosystems remains challenging due to the dependence and close association among individual functions. Here, we quantified spatial patterns in the multifunctionality of alpine grassland on the Tibetan Plateau by integrating four important individual functions based on data collected from a field survey and remote sensing NDVI. After mapping the spatial pattern of multifunctionality, we extracted multifunctionality values across four types of grassland along the northern Tibet Plateau transect. Effects of climate and grazing intensity on the multifunctionality were differentiated. Our results showed that the highest values of multifunctionality occurred in the alpine meadow. Low values of multifunctionality were comparable in different types of grassland. Annual precipitation explained the large variation of multifunctionality across the different types of grassland in the transect, which showed a significantly positive effect on the multifunctionality. Grazing intensity further explained the rest of the variation in the multifunctionality (residuals), which showed a shift from neutral or positive to negative effects on multifunctionality across the different types of grassland. The consistently rapid declines of belowground biomass, SOC, and species richness resulted in the collapse of the multifunctionality as bare ground cover amounted to 75%, which corresponded to a multifunctionality value of 0.233. Our results are the first to show the spatial pattern of grassland multifunctionality. The rapid decline of the multifunctionality suggests that a collapse in the multifunctionality can occur after the vegetation cover decreases to 25%, which is also accompanied by rapid losses of species and other individual functions. Our results are expected to provide evidence and direction for the sustainable development of alpine grassland and restoration management.
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Vol. 11 • No. 3