Different responses of plant to grazing durations in a desert steppe of Inner Mongolia, China.

Wang, Z., Hou, X.-Y., Schellenberg, M.P., Qin, Y.-X., Yun, X., Wei, Z., Jiang, C., and Wang, Y. (2014). "Different responses of plant to grazing durations in a desert steppe of Inner Mongolia, China.", Rangeland Journal, 36(6), pp. 583-592.

Abstract

This paper reports the effects of different deferments of sheep grazing on plant variables of desert steppe vegetation in Inner Mongolia during 2010-2012. The study was initiated in May 2010 and comprised five treatments: no grazing (UG), grazing throughout the growing season (G) and grazing deferment for 40, 50 and 60 days (40UG, 50UG and 60UG) from the start of the growing season in a completely randomised block design replicated three times. The plant species were classified into two functional groups (C3 and C4 species) and the relationships among species composition, biomass and annual precipitation were examined in different deferments of sheep grazing. Treatment G significantly decreased the biomass of several species compared with some of the deferred treatments and treatment UG, because of differences in grazing preferences, and, consequently, decreased the aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP). Grazing deferment for 40, 50 and 60 days significantly increased C3-species richness and biomass compared with treatment UG, whereas grazing sheep's preferences for C4 plants at some growth stages compared with C3 plants, resulted in lower species richness and biomass of C4 plants in treatments G, 40UG and 50UG in a dry year. Similarly, different species responses to treatment 60UG resulted in an increase in ANPP in a year with more precipitation during the growing season. The annual precipitation patterns strongly affected the temporal changes in biomass as well as the responses to grazing, indicating that the plant responses in the desert steppe were co-limited by grazing and precipitation. These findings provide important insights into the management and conservation of desert steppe vegetation in Inner Mongolia.

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