Plant and Soil, 2011, Vol.340(1), pp.89-102
Long-term monitoring of soil properties reveals site-specific ecosystem shifts in soil processes due to land use and climate changes. This paper aims to study the effects of physical landscape changes associated with grazing on soil thermal and moisture regime at the plot scale in a semiarid Leymus chinensis steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. The investigated sites were subjected to three grazing intensities: ungrazed since 1979 (UG79), moderately grazed only in winter time (WG), and heavily grazed (HG). At each plot, we recorded the soil moisture and temperature over a 6-year period that spanned between June 2004 and September 2009 and experienced a large range in precipitation (162 to 362 mm). Based on these monitoring data, we divided a year into four hydric periods: (1) growing period (late April to August); (2) transitional period from summer to winter (September–October); (3) winter time (November–first March); and (4) transitional period from winter to summer (March–April). In general, soil moisture in grazed sites was lower than in the ungrazed site, particularly for the 30–50 cm soil layer. Seasonal fluctuation of the soil moisture, due to variable precipitation and atmospheric demands, was most significant in the topsoil (0–10 cm) and was less pronounced in deeper soil. Regardless of hydric seasons, soil moisture was significantly influenced by grazing intensity, whereas soil temperature was slightly influenced. With increasing grazing intensity, soil water storage decreased remarkably. Consequently, grazing reduced plant available water and therefore grassland productivity, which are linked to a great extent with the trampling-induced soil structure change and soil moisture regime.
Long-term monitoring ; Grazing intensity ; Soil moisture ; Soil temperature ; Plant available water ; Semiarid steppe
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