Title: Long-term grazing improved soil chemical properties and benefited the community diversity and biomass under the influence of climate conditions in an alpine typical steppe
Authors: Yuwen Zhang, Zechen Peng, Shenghua Chang, Zhaofeng Wang, Duocai Li, Yufeng An, Fujiang Hou*, Jizhou Ren
Journal: Journal of Environmental Management
Impact Factor: IF2022 = 8.7
Abstract: Grazing and climate change both contribute to diversity loss and productivity fluctuations. Sensitive climate conditions and long-term grazing activities have a profound influence on community change, particularly in high-altitude mountain grassland ecosystems. However, knowledge about the role of long-term continuous grazing management on diversity, productivity and the regulation mechanisms in fragile grassland ecosystems is still rudimentary. We conducted a long-term grazing experiment on an alpine typical steppe in the Qilian Mountains to assess effects of grazing intensity on soil, diversity, productivity and the regulation mechanisms. Plants and soil were sampled along grazing gradients at different distances from the pasture entrance (0, 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, 1.2 and 1.5 km) under the non-growing (WP) and the growing season grazing pasture (SAP). The results revealed that community diversity and biomass did not change significantly on a time scale, while the concentration of soil organic carbon and total phosphorus increased significantly. Heavy grazing (0?0.3 km) decreased community diversity and biomass. Grazing increased soil chemical properties in heavy grazed areas of WP, while the opposite was recorded in SAP. Soil chemical properties explained the largest variances in community diversity and community biomass. The prediction model indicates that grazing in WP mainly affects community diversity through soil chemical properties, and promotes a positive correlation between community diversity and community biomass; in SAP, the direct effect of grazing gradients on community diversity and biomass is the main pathway, but not eliminating the single positive relationship between diversity and biomass, which means that diversity can still be used as a potential resource to promote productivity improvement. Therefore, we should focus on the regulation of soil chemical properties in WP, such as the health and quality of soil, strengthening its ability to store water, sequester carbon and increase nutrients; focus on the management of livestock in SAP, including providing fertilizer and sowing to increase diversity and production in heavily grazed regions and reducing grazing pressure through regional rotational grazing. Ultimately, we call for strengthening the stability and sustainability of ecosystems through targeted and active human intervention in ecologically sensitive areas to cope with future grazing pressures and climate disturbances.