Harvesting is a common method in grassland management. With shrub encroachment into grassland, special hydrological and physiological dynamics probably occur in the shrub-grass coexisted ecosystem after harvesting, which remains largely unclear. Therefore, this study aims to identify potential effects of harvesting on soil moisture pattern, phenology dynamics, and water utilization in a shrub encroached grassland. We monitored soil water for a year beneath the Caragana microphylla
canopy and interspace grassland after harvesting. The results showed that the soil water content increased under shrubs and grass patches after harvesting, especially under later ones. The water storage in soil of 0–100 cm depth increased by 18.9 mm under grass but only 5.5 mm under shrubs. Harvesting also decreased the difference of water storage between shrubs and grass from 19.1 to 5.7 mm. More snowmelt compensation, less evapotranspiration, shorter growing season, and higher water use efficiency may jointly contribute to the water recovery of harvesting soil. This study contributes novel evidence to the ecohydrological impacts of harvesting on shrub-grass co-existed ecosystems, shows application value in controlling shrub encroachment process and provides fundamental insights for the further study on soil water dynamics of similar ecosystems worldwide.
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