3 years ago

How Fencing Affects the Soil Quality and Plant Biomass in the Grassland of the Loess Plateau.

Overgrazing is a severe problem in several regions in Northwestern China and has caused serious land degradation. Secondary natural succession plays an important role in the accumulation of soil carbon and nitrogen contents. Estimating the effects of grazing exclusion on soil quality and plant diversity will improve our understanding of the succession process after overgrazing and promote judicious management of degraded pastures. This experiment was designed to measure soil properties and plant diversity following an age chronosequence of grasslands (ages ranged from one year, 12 years, 20 years, and 30 years) in Northwestern China. The results showed that continuous fencing resulted in a considerable increase in plant coverage, plant biomass (above- and below-ground biomass), and plant diversity, which can directly or indirectly improve the accumulation of soil organic carbon and total nitrogen content. The plant coverage and the above- and below-ground biomass linearly increased along the succession time, whereas soil organic C and N contents showed a significant decline in the first 12 years and, subsequently, a significant increase. The increased plant biomass caused an increase in soil organic carbon and soil total nitrogen. These results suggested that soil restoration and plant cover were an incongruous process. Generally, soil restoration is a slow process and falls behind vegetation recovery after grazing exclusion. Although the accumulation of soil C and N stocks needed a long term, vegetation restoration was a considerable option for the degraded grassland due to the significant increase of plant biomass, diversity, and soil C and N stocks. Therefore, fencing with natural succession should be considered in the design of future degraded pastures.

Publisher URL: http://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph14101117

DOI: 10.3390/ijerph14101117

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