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Solid Earth, 7, 55-65, 2016
https://doi.org/10.5194/se-7-55-2016
© Author(s) 2016. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
15 Jan 2016
Grazing effects on soil characteristics and vegetation of grassland in northern China
Z. Wang1, D. A. Johnson2, Y. Rong1, and K. Wang1 1Beijing Key Laboratory of Grassland Science, Animal Science and Technology College, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China
2USDA-ARS Forage and Range Research Lab, Utah State University, Logan, UT 84322-6300, USA
Abstract. Large areas of grassland in the agro-pastoral region of northern China were converted into cropland for grain production, and the remaining grasslands are being overgrazed and seriously degraded. The objective of this study was to evaluate how reductions in grazing intensity affect the soil and vegetation characteristics in grasslands of northern China. Soil heterogeneity and vegetation characteristics were evaluated for ungrazed (UG), moderate grazing (MG), and heavy grazing (HG) sites. Grazing increased diversity, but heavy grazing decreased aboveground biomass and increased the non-grass component. The non-grass proportion of total biomass increased with grazing intensity, which was 8, 16 and 48 % for UG, MG and HG sites, respectively. Species richness at the MG and HG sites was significantly higher than at the UG site (P< 0.05) with 3.6, 5.5 and 5.7 for UG, MG and HG sites, respectively. Strong spatial dependence of the examined soil properties at 10 m scale for all grazed sites was revealed by the ratio of nugget to total variation (0–23 %). Overgrazing homogenized soil characteristics at a 10 m scale. The ranges of spatial autocorrelation for soil organic C (SOC) and total N were both > 120 m at the HG site, which was considerably larger than that at the MG and UG sites with corresponding distances of 17.3 and 20.8 m for the MG site and 8.6 and 15.0 m for the UG site, respectively. The sampling density and sampling space for the HG site could be decreased under this scale sampling interval (10 m). Therefore, MG was recommended as the preferred management alternative for grasslands in northern China because of increased plant diversity without negative consequences related to decreased forage quality, forage quantity and soil heterogeneity for the investigated soil properties in northern China's grasslands.

Citation: Wang, Z., Johnson, D. A., Rong, Y., and Wang, K.: Grazing effects on soil characteristics and vegetation of grassland in northern China, Solid Earth, 7, 55-65, https://doi.org/10.5194/se-7-55-2016, 2016.
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Short summary
Grazing increased diversity, but heavy grazing decreased aboveground biomass and increased the non-grass component. Overgrazing homogenized soil characteristics at a 10m scale. Therefore, moderate grazing was recommended as the preferred management alternative for grasslands in northern China because of increased plant diversity without negative consequences related to decreased forage quality forage quantity and soil heterogeneity in northern China's grasslands.
Grazing increased diversity, but heavy grazing decreased aboveground biomass and increased the...
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