Since the contribution of total belowground bud bank and different bud types to community regeneration has rarely been explored, the vegetative offspring recruited from different belowground bud types was investigated in four plant communities along a grassland degradation gradient in northeastern China (Inner Mongolia). This gradient, between 1000 and 1500 m a.s.l., has been caused by overgrazing. It is a Leymus chinensis steppe which occupies about 3.0×105 ha. Recruitment from tiller buds was dominant (>80%) in determining the total vegetative offspring density along the whole grassland degradation gradient. However, the proportional contribution of tiller-ramets to total ramet recruitment was significantly greater (P <0.05) during earlier than later stages of grassland degradation, while that of rhizome-ramets showed an opposite pattern. While the percentage contribution and density of root-derived ramets to total ramet density increased significantly (P <0.05) during the late stages of grassland degradation, those of bulb-ramets kept relatively constant along the whole grassland degradation gradient. The relative contribution of hemicryptophytes [i.e., Achnatherum sibiricum, Cleistogenes squarrosa, Festuca ovina, Koeoleria cristata, Poa annua, Stipa grandis] to total plant species richness decreased, while that of geophytes [i.e., Agropyron cristatum, Carex korshinskyi. Leymus chinensis, Allium anisopodium, A. bidentatum, A. tenuissimum, Astragalus galactites, Cymbaria dahurica, Iris tenuifolin, Potentilla acaulis, P. bifurca, Pulsatilla turczaninovii, Serratula chinensis, Thalictrum aquilegifolium] increased with the increases of grassland degradation. Our results showed that as grassland degradation increased, changes in the proportion of tiller-, rhizome- and root-derived ramets with respect to total ramet density determined in turn changes in the proportion of hemicryptophytes and geophytes in the study plant communities.
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Vol. 63 • No. 1