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Response of vegetation and soil carbon and nitrogen storage to grazing intensity in semi-arid grasslands in the agro-pastoral zone of northern china.

Authors
  • Xu, Min-Yun1
  • Xie, Fan2
  • Wang, Kun3
  • 1 Department of Ecology, College of Urban and Environmental Sciences, Peking University, Beijing, P.R. China; College of Animal Science & Technology, Hebei Agricultural University, Baoding, Hebei province, P.R. China. , (China)
  • 2 Department of Party Affairs, China National Light Industry Council, Beijing, P.R. China. , (China)
  • 3 College of Animal Science & Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing, P.R. China. , (China)
Type
Published Article
Journal
PLoS ONE
Publisher
Public Library of Science
Publication Date
Jan 01, 2014
Volume
9
Issue
5
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096604
PMID: 24819162
Source
Medline
License
Unknown

Abstract

Overgrazing has been the primary cause of grassland degradation in the semi-arid grasslands of the agro-pastoral transition zone in northern China. However, there has been little evidence regarding grazing intensity impacts on vegetation change and soil C and N dynamics in this region. This paper reports the effects of four grazing intensities namely un-grazed (UG), lightly grazed (LG), moderately grazed (MG) and heavily grazed (HG) on vegetation characteristics and soil properties of grasslands in the Guyuan county in the agro-pastoral transition region, Hebei province, northern China. Our study showed that the vegetation height, canopy cover, plant species abundance and aboveground biomass decreased significantly with increased grazing intensity. Similarly, soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (STN) in the 0-50 cm were highest under UG (13.3 kg C m-2 and 1.69 kg N m-2) and lowest under HG (9.8 kg C m-2 and 1.22 kg N m-2). Soil available nitrogen (SAN) was significantly lower under HG (644 kg N hm-2) than under other treatments (725-731 kg N hm-2) in the 0-50 cm. Our results indicate that the pasture management of "take half-leave half" has potential benefits for primary production and livestock grazing in this region. However, grazing exclusion was perhaps the most effective choice for restoring degraded grasslands in this region. Therefore, flexible rangeland management should be adopted in this region.

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