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Effect of mowing and grazing on soil organic matter quality and microbial functioning

  • Gilmullina, Aliia
Publication Date
Dec 15, 2020
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Grasslands can contribute to climate change mitigation through soil organic carbon (SOC) sequestration, however, the magnitude of SOC sequestration is dependent on the management practices and pedoclimatic conditions. Grazing and mowing are both harvesting techniques, but their effect on the plant-soil system may be different. In this context the general aim of the PhD was to determine the effect of grazing and mowing on soil organic matter (SOM) quality and soil biogeochemical processes under contrasting pedoclimatic conditions. To this end, I analysed soil and plant parameters in grazing and mowing at two experimental sites of SOERE ACBB in Lusignan and Clermont Ferrand. My results indicate that grassland management practices altered plant chemistry, in particular its lignin content, resulting in higher plant litter quality under grazing compared to mowing. However, the soil lignin composition was not related to shoot and root lignin composition suggesting that soil lignin is controlled by microbial decomposition. Moreover, grassland management influenced the root biomass, which consequently controlled microbial functioning. Pedoclimatic conditions determined the grassland management effects on SOC and N: grazing resulted in higher SOC content compared to mowing in C-poor soil whereas in C-rich soil both resulted in similar SOC contents as in unmanaged grassland. However, regardless of the pedoclimatic conditions, mowing led to more degraded SOM and less efficient microbial functioning as compared to grazing.To conclude, both grazing and mowing have the potential to increase SOC sequestration albeit grazing has bigger potential in C-poor soil, which may be explained by contrasting effects of grazing and mowing on soil biogeochemical processes

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