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Journal of Arid Land  2015, Vol. 7 Issue (3): 341-349    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-014-0049-x
Research Articles     
Effects of grazing on carbon and nitrogen in plants and soils in a semiarid desert grassland, China
Hui AN, GuoQi LI
Ministry of Education Key Laboratory for Restoration and Reconstruction of Degraded Ecosystem in Northwestern China, United Center for Ecology Research and Bioresource Exploitation in Western China, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
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Abstract  Grazing can modulate the feedback between vegetation and soil nutrient dynamics (carbon and nitrogen), altering the cycles of these elements in grassland ecosystems. For clarifying the impact of grazing on the C and N in plants and soils in the desert grassland of Ningxia, China, we examined the plant biomass, SOC (soil organic carbon), total soil N and stable isotope signatures of plants and soils from both the grazed and ungrazed sites. Significantly lower aboveground biomass, root biomass, litter biomass and vegetation coverage were found in the grazed site compared to the ungrazed site, with decreases of 42.0%, 16.2%, 59.4% and 30.0%, respectively. The effects of grazing on plant carbon, nitrogen, 15N and 13C values were uniform among species. The levels of plant carbon and nitrogen in grasses were greater than those in the forbs (except for the carbon of Cynanchum komarovii and Euphorbia esula). Root 15N and 13C values increased with grazing, while the responses of root carbon and nitrogen to grazing showed no consistent patterns. Root 15N and 13C were increased by 79.0% and 22.4% in the grazed site compared to the ungrazed site, respectively. The values of SOC and total N were significantly lower in the grazed than in the ungrazed sites for all sampling depths (0–10 and 10–20 cm), and values of SOC and total N at the surface (0–10 cm) were lower than those in the deeper soils (10–20 cm). Soil 15N values were not affected by grazing at any sampling depth, whereas soil 13C values were significantly affected by grazing and increased by 19.3% and 8.6% in the soils at 0–10 and 10–20 cm, respectively. The soil 13C values (–8.3‰ to –6.7‰) were higher than those for roots (–20.2‰ to –15.6‰) and plant tissues (–27.9‰ to –13.3‰). Our study suggests that grazing could greatly affect soil organic carbon and nitrogen in contrast to ungrazed grassland and that grazing appears to exert a negative effect on soil carbon and nitrogen in desert grassland.

Key words Sophora moorcroftiana      Caragana maximovicziana      photosynthesis characteristic      antioxidative protection      drought stress     
Received: 19 May 2014      Published: 05 February 2015

The research was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31260125, 31000214).

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Cite this article:

Hui AN, GuoQi LI. Effects of grazing on carbon and nitrogen in plants and soils in a semiarid desert grassland, China. Journal of Arid Land, 2015, 7(3): 341-349.

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