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      Nature's patchwork: How water sources and soil salinity determine the distribution and structure of halophytic plant communities in arid environments of the Eastern Pamir

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          Abstract

          The eastern part of the Pamir Mountains, located in Central Asia, is characterized by great climatic continentality and aridity. Wetlands developed in this hostile region are restricted to spring areas, terraces of shallow lakes or floodplains along rivers, and provide diversified ecosystem services e.g. as water reservoirs, refugia for rare species and pastures for domestic cattle. These ecosystems are particularly susceptible to climate changes, that in the Pamir Mountains result in increased temperatures, intense permafrost/glacial melt and alterations of precipitation patterns. Climatic changes affect pasture management in the mountains, causing overutilization of sites located at lower elevations. Thus, both climate and man-induced disturbances may violate the existing ecological equilibrium in high-mountain wetlands of the Eastern Pamir, posing a serious risk to their biodiversity and to food security of the local population. In this context, we sought to assess how environmental drivers (with special focus on soil features and potential water sources) shape the distribution and diversity of halophytic plant communities developed in valleys in the Eastern Pamir. This task was completed by means of a vegetation survey and comprehensive analyses of habitat conditions. The lake terraces and floodplains studied were covered by a repetitive mosaic of plant communities determined by differences in soil moisture and salinity. On lower, wetter sites, this patchwork was formed by Blysmus rufus dominated salt marshes, saline small sedge meadows and saline meadows with Kobresia royleana and Primula pamirica; and on drier, elevated sites, by endemic grasslands with Hordeum brevisubulatum and Puccinellia species and patches of xerohalophytic vegetation. Continuous instability of water sources and summer droughts occurring in the Pamir Mountains may lead to significant structural and functional transformations of described wetland ecosystems. Species more tolerant to decreased soil moisture and/or increased soil salinity will expand, leading to alterations of ecosystem services provided by the Pamirs’ wetlands. The described research will help to assess the current state of the wetlands and to predict directions of their future changes.

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          Most cited references 88

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          Diversity and Evenness: A Unifying Notation and Its Consequences

           M. O. Hill (1973)
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            Salinity tolerance in halophytes.

            Halophytes, plants that survive to reproduce in environments where the salt concentration is around 200 mm NaCl or more, constitute about 1% of the world's flora. Some halophytes show optimal growth in saline conditions; others grow optimally in the absence of salt. However, the tolerance of all halophytes to salinity relies on controlled uptake and compartmentalization of Na+, K+ and Cl- and the synthesis of organic 'compatible' solutes, even where salt glands are operative. Although there is evidence that different species may utilize different transporters in their accumulation of Na+, in general little is known of the proteins and regulatory networks involved. Consequently, it is not yet possible to assign molecular mechanisms to apparent differences in rates of Na+ and Cl- uptake, in root-to-shoot transport (xylem loading and retrieval), or in net selectivity for K+ over Na+. At the cellular level, H+-ATPases in the plasma membrane and tonoplast, as well as the tonoplast H+-PPiase, provide the trans-membrane proton motive force used by various secondary transporters. The widespread occurrence, taxonomically, of halophytes and the general paucity of information on the molecular regulation of tolerance mechanisms persuade us that research should be concentrated on a number of 'model' species that are representative of the various mechanisms that might be involved in tolerance.
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              JUICE, software for vegetation classification

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Editor
                Journal
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                plos
                plosone
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, CA USA )
                1932-6203
                30 March 2017
                2017
                : 12
                : 3
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Faculty of Biology, Biological and Chemical Research Centre, Department of Plant Ecology and Environmental Protection, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
                [2 ]Warsaw University of Life Sciences, Faculty of Agriculture and Botany, Department of Botany, Warsaw, Poland
                [3 ]Kh.Yu. Yusufbekov Pamir Biological Institute of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan, Khorog, Tajikistan
                [4 ]Faculty of Geography and Regional Studies, University of Warsaw, Warsaw, Poland
                Technical University in Zvolen, SLOVAKIA
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                • Conceptualization: MM ŁC PP MSM.

                • Formal analysis: MM ŁC PP.

                • Funding acquisition: MSM.

                • Investigation: MM ŁC DN PP MS MSM.

                • Project administration: MSM.

                • Resources: DN.

                • Visualization: MM ER MS.

                • Writing – original draft: MM.

                • Writing – review & editing: MM ŁC PP ER MS MSM.

                Article
                PONE-D-16-28692
                10.1371/journal.pone.0174496
                5373547
                28358825
                © 2017 Mętrak et al

                This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                Counts
                Figures: 7, Tables: 2, Pages: 23
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: National Science Centre of Poland
                Award ID: 2013/09/B/ST10/01662
                Award Recipient :
                This work was financially supported by the National Science Centre of Poland ( https://www.ncn.gov.pl/). Grant number is 2013/09/B/ST10/01662.
                Categories
                Research Article
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Bodies of Water
                Lakes
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Lakes
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Lakes
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Plant Science
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Earth Sciences
                Hydrology
                Surface Water
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Wetlands
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Wetlands
                Earth Sciences
                Geomorphology
                Topography
                Landforms
                Wetlands
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Ecology
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Grasslands
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Ecology
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Grasslands
                Biology and Life Sciences
                Plant Science
                Plant Ecology
                Plant Communities
                Grasslands
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Terrestrial Environments
                Grasslands
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Marshes
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Aquatic Environments
                Freshwater Environments
                Marshes
                Physical Sciences
                Chemistry
                Chemical Properties
                Salinity
                Physical Sciences
                Chemistry
                Physical Chemistry
                Chemical Properties
                Salinity
                Earth Sciences
                Geomorphology
                Topography
                Landforms
                Mountains
                Ecology and Environmental Sciences
                Terrestrial Environments
                Mountains
                Custom metadata
                All relevant data are within the paper and its Supporting Information files.

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