PROGRESS IN GEOGRAPHY ›› 2016, Vol. 35 ›› Issue (3): 320-330.doi: 10.18306/dlkxjz.2016.03.006

• Reviews • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Review of ecosystem vulnerability studies in the karst region of Southwest China based on a structure-function-habitat framework

Wenjuan HOU1,2(), Jiangbo GAO1,*(), Tao PENG3,4, Shaohong WU1, Erfu DAI1   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing100101, China
    2. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
    3. State Key Laboratory of Environmental Geochemistry, Institute of Geochemistry, CAS, Guiyang 550002, China
    4. Puding Karst Ecosystem Research Station, Puding 562100, Guizhou, China
  • Received:2015-04-01 Accepted:2015-08-01 Online:2016-03-25 Published:2016-03-25
  • Contact: Jiangbo GAO;
  • Supported by:
    National Basic Research Program of China, No.2015CB452702;National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41301089;National Science and Technology Support Program of China, No.2012BAC19B10, No.2013BAC04B02


During the past decades, due to the intensified human disturbance and its special geological background and ecological environment, karst ecosystem in the southwestern part of China exhibited significant vulnerability, which hinders the sustainable development of the social-economic-ecological system of the region. Based on system sensitivity and adaptability, a large number of studies have investigated the vulnerability of karst ecosystem structure, function, and habitat to external disturbance. Especially, indicators of ecosystem diversity, key species, productivity, and soil physical/chemical properties were applied to reveal ecosystem sensitivity to land use/cover change and rocky desertification. However, research on quantification of ecosystem sensitivity by field experiment, mechanism models, and mathematical statistics, is less advanced. Although some karst-suitable plants present adaptability to karst drought environment by self-regulation of morphological structure and physiological function, the ecosystem adaption mechanism or biophysical/biochemical processes in response to environmental threat (e.g. human disturbance and climate change) remain unclear. Due to the close interaction of ecosystem structure, function, and habitat, future research should examine the response of coupled ecosystem components to promote the study of driving mechanism and quantitative assessment of karst ecosystem vulnerability. Furthermore, research on ecosystem vulnerability at different succession stages of karst rocky desertification needs to be strengthened to advance rocky desertification control and ecological restoration and reconstruction.

Key words: karst ecosystem, vulnerability, desertification, structure-function-habitat, progress and prospect