Effects of livestock grazing on the spatial heterogeneity of net soil nitrogen mineralization in three types of Mongolian grasslands

Abstract

Purpose Small-scale soil heterogeneity relates to productivity and biodiversity and is crucial to understand. Soil heterogeneity could be affected by vegetation structure, and large mammal grazers could modify it through herbivory and excretion. The objective is to clarify the effects of livestock grazing on the small-scale (∼3 m) soil heterogeneity in three types of Mongolian grasslands. Materials and methods We sampled soils from inside (ungrazed) and outside (grazed) exclosures in three vegetation types: forest-steppe, shrub-steppe, and desert-steppe. We measured laboratory rates of soil net nitrogen (N) mineralization and net nitrification and geostatistically analyzed heterogeneity. Results and discussion Average rates of net N mineralization and net nitrification were lower at shrub-steppe and desert-steppe and were decreased by grazing. Semivariograms showed vegetation-induced heterogeneity in ungrazed plots, except for net nitrification at forest-steppe. We found linear change with distance under dense and uniform vegetation at forest-steppe, 1.3 m patch under patchy vegetation at shrub-steppe, and linear change, but with much smaller semivariance, under sparse and poor vegetation at desert-steppe. At forest-steppe, grazing randomized the spatial patterns of net N mineralization and net nitrification. At shrubsteppe and desert-steppe, grazing greatly decreased the semivariances of net N mineralization and net nitrification as well as their averages, and the soil heterogeneity was virtually disappeared. Conclusions Grazing in Mongolian grasslands homogenized the spatial patterns of net N mineralization and net nitrification, irrespective of their original spatial patterns determined by the differences in vegetation structure.

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Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Hirobe2013EffectsOL, title={Effects of livestock grazing on the spatial heterogeneity of net soil nitrogen mineralization in three types of Mongolian grasslands}, author={Muneto Hirobe and Junji Kondo and Altangerel Enkhbaatar and Noboru Fujita and Keiji Sakamoto and Ken - ichi Yoshikawa and Knut Kielland and Ulan Bator}, year={2013} }