There are nonequilibrium characteristics of grassland ecosystems driven by water, and constraints on the development scale of artificially irrigated grassland caused by the lack of water resources in arid pastoral areas. Based on the interaction of water, forage, and livestock, this study built a model of livestock-carrying capacity within the dynamic water–forage–livestock balance, to analyze the livestock carrying capacity of arid pastoral areas. The results showed that compared with the fixed livestock carrying capacity of 1.0898 million sheep units with a dynamic forage–livestock balance, the livestock carrying capacity based on the dynamic water–forage–livestock balance of OtogBanner were in a multi-equilibrium state due to the fluctuation of rangeland productivity caused by a change in precipitation conditions and the adjustment of the tame grassland irrigation scale caused by the change in water demand of other water users in the pastoral area. Under the conditions of the wet, normal, and dry years, the livestock carrying capacity was 1.632 million standard sheep units under the 26.5 thousand hm2
tame grassland developing areas, 1.3037 million standard sheep units under the 25.9 thousand hm2
tame grassland developing areas, and 0.9155 million standard sheep units respectively under 22.4 thousand hm2
tame grassland developing areas. This fluctuation change was more prominent in the pastoral areas with rangeland as the key field. Besides this, the model could effectively identify the predicament of water and forage resources. At present, the overload of forage resources and water resources coexisted in the pastoral area of OtogBanner, and an important reason for this was that the distribution of water and forage resources was poorly matched with the mode of animal husbandry production. The value of 1.3037 million sheep units was recommended to the livestock-carrying capacity of OtogBanner according to the model. This study could provide a new method for the calculation of livestock carrying capacity, and offered a scientific basis for the protection of the grassland ecological environment and the sustainable development of animal husbandry in the arid pastoral area of OtogBanner.
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