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Journal of Arid Land  2019, Vol. 11 Issue (2): 306-317    DOI: 10.1007/s40333-019-0008-7
Orginal Article     
Conversion of cropland into agroforestry land versus naturally-restored grassland alters soil macro-faunal diversity and trophic structure in the semi-arid agro-pasture zone of northern China
Rentao LIU1,*(), STEINBERGER Yosef2, Jingwei HOU1, Juan ZHAO1, Jianan LIU1, Haitao CHANG1, Jing ZHANG3, Yaxi LUO3
1 Key Laboratory for Restoration and Reconstruction of Degraded Ecosystem in Northwestern China of Ministry of Education, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
2 The Mina & Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, Bar Ilan University, Ramat-Gan 52900, Israel;
3 College of Agriculture, Ningxia University, Yinchuan 750021, China
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Restoration of cropland (termed 'Farm') after abandonment including shrubs (termed 'Shrub'), trees (termed 'Tree') and natural grassland (termed 'Grass') has become a routine process aimed to improve land productivity and control desertification. During this restoration process, soil macro-faunal diversity, and trophic structure were investigated at four types of sites (Farm, Shrub, Tree, and Grass) during growing season in the semi-arid agro-pasture zone of northern China. Results indicated that the Staphylinidae family was found to dominate at the Grass, Shrub, and Tree sites, whiles larval Pyralidae individuals were found at the Grass site only. The density of the omnivores (i.e., Formicidae family) was significantly (P<0.05) greater at the Grass site than at the Tree and Farm sites. The total density and richness of predator and phytophages were found to be markedly (P<0.05) greater at the Grass site than at the Farm site. Meanwhile, we found the taxon richness of predators was significantly (P<0.05) higher at the Shrub site than at the Farm and Tree sites. Compared with the Farm and afforested Shrub/Tree sites, the Grass site had greater density, taxon richness, and Shannon index (P<0.05). In conclusion, natural restoration of abandoned croplands toward grassland was an effective strategy relative to artificial afforestation for improvement of soil biological diversity. Moreover, planting shrub is a preferable measure in abandoned croplands for land development in the semi-arid agro-pasture zone of northern China.

Key wordsabandoned cropland      agro-pasture zone      community diversity      land restoration      soil macrofauna     
Received: 23 October 2017      Published: 10 April 2019
Corresponding Authors: Rentao LIU     E-mail:;
Cite this article:

Rentao LIU, STEINBERGER Yosef, Jingwei HOU, Juan ZHAO, Jianan LIU, Haitao CHANG, Jing ZHANG, Yaxi LUO. Conversion of cropland into agroforestry land versus naturally-restored grassland alters soil macro-faunal diversity and trophic structure in the semi-arid agro-pasture zone of northern China. Journal of Arid Land, 2019, 11(2): 306-317.

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