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Journal of Arid Land

Article Title

How precipitation and grazing influence the ecological functions of drought-prone grasslands on the northern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains, China?

Authors

Xiaotao HUANG, 1 Qinghai Provincial Key Laboratory of Restoration Ecology for Cold Regions, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 2 Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 3 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Geping LUO, 3 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, ChinaFollow
Chunbo CHEN, 3 State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Urumqi 830011, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Jian PENG, 5 Xinjiang Grassland Technical Popularization Station, Urumqi 830049, ChinaFollow
Chujie ZHANG, 5 Xinjiang Grassland Technical Popularization Station, Urumqi 830049, China
Huakun ZHOU, 1 Qinghai Provincial Key Laboratory of Restoration Ecology for Cold Regions, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 2 Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Buqing YAO, 1 Qinghai Provincial Key Laboratory of Restoration Ecology for Cold Regions, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 2 Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Zhen MA, 1 Qinghai Provincial Key Laboratory of Restoration Ecology for Cold Regions, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 2 Key Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, China; 4 University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
Xiaoyan XI, 6 Qinghai Environmental Sciences Research and Design Institute Co. Ltd., Xining 810007, China

Abstract

Drought-prone grasslands provide a critical resource for the millions of people who are dependent on livestock for food security. However, this ecosystem is potentially vulnerable to climate change (e.g., precipitation) and human activity (e.g., grazing). Despite this, the influences of precipitation and grazing on ecological functions of drought-prone grasslands in the Tianshan Mountains remain relatively unexplored. Therefore, we conducted a systematic field investigation and a clipping experiment (simulating different intensities of grazing) in a drought-prone grassland on the northern slopes of the Tianshan Mountains in China to examine the influences of precipitation and grazing on aboveground biomass (AGB), soil volumetric water content (SVWC), and precipitation use efficiency (PUE) during the period of 2014–2017. We obtained the meteorological and SVWC data using an HL20 Bowen ratio system and a PR2 soil profile hydrometer, respectively. We found that AGB was clearly affected by both the amount and seasonal pattern of precipitation, and that PUE may be relatively low in years with either low or excessive precipitation. The PUE values were generally higher in the rapid growing season (April–July) than in the entire growing season (April–October). Overall, moderate grazing can promote plant growth under water stress conditions. The SVWC value was higher in the clipped plots than in the unclipped plots in the rapid growing season (April–July), but it was lower in the clipped plots than in the unclipped plots in the slow growing season (August–October). Our findings can enhance the understanding of the ecological effects of precipitation and grazing in drought-prone grasslands and provide data that will support the effective local grassland management.

Keywords

climate change; human activity; aboveground biomass; precipitation use efficiency; soil volumetric water content; water stress

First Page

88

Last Page

97

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