Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization

A special issue of Agronomy (ISSN 2073-4395). This special issue belongs to the section "Grassland and Pasture Science".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2023) | Viewed by 28373

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

College of Grassland Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
Interests: grassland and pasture ecology and their management and utilization; the restoration of degraded grassland and soil systems; the sustainable management of agro-pastoral coupling systems

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Guest Editor
College of Grassland Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100083, China
Interests: restoration and reconstruction of degraded ecosystems; ecosystem management; biodiversity conservation; sustainable use of natural resources; nutrient regulation and management of grass and livestock systems

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Grasslands are one of the most important terrestrial ecosystems, providing multiple ecological functions and services, including livestock production, biodiversity conservation, the maintenance of soil and water, carbon sequestration, and wildlife habitat, among other functions. Many factors affecting grassland ecological management and utilization alter the functions and services provided by this ecosystem. Contributions to this Special Issue should focus on the latest findings regarding the influence of various factors on grassland and pasture functions and services in relation to the ecological management and utilization of these environments. Papers should aim to elucidate the inner mechanisms of change or propose tangible solutions to support sustainable and rational use of grassland and pasture.

 “Grassland and pasture ecological management and utilization” will host original research articles and reviews on grassland management and its current and future challenges with respect to global change and landscape features. Potential topics include, but are not limited to: grassland and pasture management, grassland conservation and restoration, ecosystem services, and grassland monitoring and assessment.

Dr. Kesi Liu
Prof. Dr. Xinqing Shao
Guest Editors

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Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 2600 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • grassland
  • pasture
  • nutrient management
  • grazing management
  • restoration
  • climate change
  • ecosystem services
  • soil quality
  • forage quality
  • grassland monitoring and assessment

Published Papers (25 papers)

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Editorial

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5 pages, 179 KiB  
Editorial
Grassland Ecological Management and Utilization for Sustainability
by Kesi Liu and Xinqing Shao
Agronomy 2024, 14(1), 149; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy14010149 - 09 Jan 2024
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 755
Abstract
Grasslands, covering 40% of the land surface area [...] Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)

Research

Jump to: Editorial, Review

17 pages, 622 KiB  
Article
Desertification Reversal Promotes the Complexity of Plant Community by Increasing Plant Species Diversity of Each Plant Functional Type
by Kaiyang Qiu, Zhigang Li, Yingzhong Xie, Dongmei Xu, Chen He and Richard Pott
Agronomy 2024, 14(1), 96; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy14010096 - 30 Dec 2023
Viewed by 637
Abstract
Desertification reversal is globally significant for the sustainable development of land resources. However, the mechanisms of desertification reversal at the level of plant community are still unclear. We hypothesized that desertification reversal has clear effects on plant community composition, plant functional types (PFTs), [...] Read more.
Desertification reversal is globally significant for the sustainable development of land resources. However, the mechanisms of desertification reversal at the level of plant community are still unclear. We hypothesized that desertification reversal has clear effects on plant community composition, plant functional types (PFTs), and other vegetation characteristics, including plant diversity and biomass, and their changes in the early stages of reversal are more dramatic than in later stages. We investigated the vegetation of four to five different stages of desertification reversal at each of seven large study sites in southwestern Mu Us Sandy Land, China. The results show that the dominant species in very severe desertification areas were replaced by perennial grasses in potential desertification areas. The importance values of annual forbs and perennial sub-shrubs decreased dramatically (from 42.59 and 32.98 to 22.13 and 5.54, respectively), whereas those of perennial grasses and perennial forbs increased prominently (from 13.26 and 2.71 to 53.94 and 11.79, respectively) with the reversal of desertification. Desertification reversal increased the complexity of plant community composition by increasing plant species in each PFT, and C3 plants replaced C4 plants to become the dominant PFT with reversal. Plant species richness and species diversity rose overall, and aboveground plant biomass significantly (p < 0.05) increased with the reversal of desertification. Most vegetation characteristics changed more strikingly in the early stages of desertification reversal than in later stages. Our results indicate that the type and composition of the plant community were dramatically affected by desertification reversal. Anthropogenic measures are more applicable to being employed in early stages than in later stages, and Amaranthaceae C4 plants are suggested to be planted in mobile dunes for the acceleration of desertification reversal. This study is useful for designing strategies of land management and ecological restoration in arid and semiarid regions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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19 pages, 3828 KiB  
Article
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) Nitrogen Utilization, Yield and Quality Respond to Nitrogen Application Level with Center Pivot Fertigation System
by Yunling Wang, Maona Li, Jiali Guo and Haijun Yan
Agronomy 2024, 14(1), 48; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy14010048 - 23 Dec 2023
Viewed by 739
Abstract
Nitrogen (N) application with a center-pivot fertigation system is commonly used for alfalfa production in the North China Plain, with its barren soil, but improper N application has resulted in lower N use efficiency and even negative effects on yield and quality. The [...] Read more.
Nitrogen (N) application with a center-pivot fertigation system is commonly used for alfalfa production in the North China Plain, with its barren soil, but improper N application has resulted in lower N use efficiency and even negative effects on yield and quality. The effects of N application levels on soil NO3-N content, nitrogen utilization, yield and quality of alfalfa at various cuttings and established years were evaluated under sprinkler fertigation to optimize the N application schedule. Four N application levels of 0, 12.5, 25 and 37.5 kg N ha−1 (N0, N1, N2 and N3) for each cutting were applied to alfalfa at the early vegetative stage from the first to third year after establishment. The results showed that the variation in soil NO3-N content was mainly concentrated in the topsoil (0–40 cm) after N application via sprinkler fertigation. N uptake amount was dramatically improved through the N application for one-year-old alfalfa. Compared to the yield under the N0 treatment, the N application significantly improved the yield of alfalfa at the first two cuttings in the first year. The N use efficiency generally reached a high value with a low N application level. N application had an insignificant effect on the alfalfa quality classification during the three years. For obtaining high yield, quality and N use efficiency of alfalfa planted in the North China Plain, the N application level is recommended as 12.5 kg N ha−1 at the first cutting and 37.5 kg N ha−1 at the second cutting for one-year-old alfalfa. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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12 pages, 1688 KiB  
Article
Responses of Soil Bacterial Communities and Chemical Properties to Grazing Regulation in Desert Steppe
by Yue Wang, Mishan Guo, Yongfu Li, Xiaolin Yin, Jianying Guo and Jing Wang
Agronomy 2023, 13(11), 2817; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13112817 - 15 Nov 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 698
Abstract
Due to the region’s social economy and historical culture, rough grazing has led to unresolved grassland-based ecological problems in Northern China. Soil microorganisms are essential structural and functional components of underground ecosystems, and the effects of various grazing intensities on the physicochemical properties [...] Read more.
Due to the region’s social economy and historical culture, rough grazing has led to unresolved grassland-based ecological problems in Northern China. Soil microorganisms are essential structural and functional components of underground ecosystems, and the effects of various grazing intensities on the physicochemical properties and bacterial communities of soil are unclear. A stocking density regulation experiment was carried out in the desert steppe of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. In the study area, four grazing intensities were set, namely, the enclosure control group (CK), light grazing, moderate grazing, and heavy grazing. Field investigations and 16S rRNA sequencing were used to compare and analyze the characteristics of soil bacterial community structures and their correlations with soil nutrient factors under different grazing intensities. The experiment showed the following results: (1) The Shannon, Simpson, and Pielou indices of the light grazing group were significantly higher than those of the CK (p < 0.05), and the indices of the moderate and heavy grazing groups were lower than those of the CK, but the difference was not significant, and there were no significant differences in the Chao1 index between each group. (2) Acidobacteria, Actinobacteria, Proteobacteria, and Chloroflexi were the main bacterial phyla. (3) With the exception of soil organic matter and available potassium, which had significant negative correlations with the Shannon index (p < 0.05), other soil factors had no significant correlation with the soil bacterial diversity. (4) The contents of soil organic matter, total phosphorus, alkali-hydrolyzed nitrogen, available phosphorus, and available potassium influenced the differences between soil bacterial communities under different grazing intensities. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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18 pages, 5247 KiB  
Article
Effects of Long-Term Exclosure on Main Plant Functional Groups and Their Biochemical Properties in a Patchily Degraded Alpine Meadow in the Source Zone of the Yellow River, West China
by Pengnian Yang, Xilai Li, Chenyi Li and Jing Zhang
Agronomy 2023, 13(11), 2781; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13112781 - 09 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 838
Abstract
This study aimed to understand the response of vegetation community characteristics in the degraded alpine meadow of the Source Zone of the Yellow River to exclosure of various lengths. Artificial fences were erected to prevent livestock grazing and let the degraded meadow recover [...] Read more.
This study aimed to understand the response of vegetation community characteristics in the degraded alpine meadow of the Source Zone of the Yellow River to exclosure of various lengths. Artificial fences were erected to prevent livestock grazing and let the degraded meadow recover naturally as a means of restoration. The research focused on a typical degraded alpine meadow in which four plots were fenced off for three periods of 1 year (E1), 4 years (E4), and 10 years (E10), plus a freely grazed plot as the control. The study compared and analyzed the differences in plant community characteristics, carbon (C), nitrogen (N), and phosphorus (P) reserves, as well as the stoichiometric characteristics of main functional groups in the alpine meadow over different exclosure durations. The results indicated that E10 long-term exclosure significantly increased the aboveground biomass of gramineous plants but reduced the aboveground biomass of miscellaneous grasses. However, when compared to E4 short-term exclosure, E10 resulted in a reduction in the aboveground biomass of Cyperaceae plants. On the other hand, E4 medium-term exclosure significantly increased the aboveground biomass of Gramineae and Cyperaceae. Exclosure significantly increased the nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) reserves of the aboveground plant communities. Among these communities, the plant communities in the E10 long-term exclosure had the highest N and P reserves. However, this exclosure length also led to a significant reduction in plant diversity. Furthermore, except for Cyperaceae, all functional groups were observed in E10 and E4 plots. The carbon–nitrogen ratio and carbon–phosphorus ratio of these groups were significantly lower than those of groups G and E1. Medium-term exclosure (E4) has a positive impact on the aboveground biomass as well as plants’ nitrogen and phosphorus reserves. However, long-term exclosure (E10) has been observed to decrease species diversity and nutrient utilization efficiency of alpine meadow vegetation, which can be detrimental to the sustainable development of the alpine meadow ecosystem. Therefore, it is not recommended to implement long-term exclosure. Instead, a moderate level of grazing should be adopted after 4 years of exclosure. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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13 pages, 3869 KiB  
Article
The Microbiomes of Various Types of Abandoned Fallow Soils of South Taiga (Novgorod Region, Russian North-West)
by Evgeny V. Abakumov, Grigory V. Gladkov, Anastasiia K. Kimeklis and Evgeny E. Andronov
Agronomy 2023, 13(10), 2592; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13102592 - 10 Oct 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 802
Abstract
More than 30 years have passed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and huge areas of soil were left in a fallow state. The study of the microbiological status of fallow soils is an extremely urgent task because fallow soils represent the [...] Read more.
More than 30 years have passed after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and huge areas of soil were left in a fallow state. The study of the microbiological status of fallow soils is an extremely urgent task because fallow soils represent the “hidden” food basket of Eurasia. In this context, we studied the influence of land use type (pasture, vegetable garden, hayfield, or secondary afforestation) on key agrochemical parameters and parameters of soil microbial biodiversity. All anthropogenically transformed soils included in the analysis showed increased humus content and pH shift to a more neutral side compared to the mature soil; the same seemed to be the case for all nutrient elements. It was established that the key factor regulating soil microbiome composition shift was the duration and degree of irreversibility of an agrogenic impact. The key phyla of soil microorganisms were Pseudomonadota, Acidobacteriota, Verrucomicrobiota, Bacteroidota, and Actinobacteriota. The proportion of other phyla was quite variative in soils of different land use. At the same time, all the 30-year-old abandoned soils were more similar to each other than to mature reference soil and 130-year-old soils of monoculture vegetable gardens. Thus, the first factor, regulating soil microbiome composition, is a continuation of soil agrogenic transformation. The second factor is the type of land use if the soil age was equal for fallow territory in the case of one initial podzol soil and one type of landscape. Thus, 30-year-old abandoned soils are intermediate in terms of microbial biodiversity between pristine natural podzols and plaggic podzol. It could be suggested that in the case of secondary involvement of soils in agriculture, the composition of the microbiome may turn to mature soil or to plaggic soil under intensive amelioration. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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19 pages, 4264 KiB  
Article
Evaluation of the Relationship between Cultivar, Endophyte and Environment on the Expression of Persistence in Perennial Ryegrass Populations Using High-Throughput Phenotyping
by Chinthaka Jayasinghe, Joe Jacobs, Anna Thomson and Kevin Smith
Agronomy 2023, 13(9), 2292; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13092292 - 30 Aug 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 920
Abstract
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is a commonly grown pasture species in temperate agriculture, mainly serving as a primary energy source for dairy cows. However, its limited persistence often leads to missed production potential and early resowing, especially in countries that experience [...] Read more.
Perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne L.) is a commonly grown pasture species in temperate agriculture, mainly serving as a primary energy source for dairy cows. However, its limited persistence often leads to missed production potential and early resowing, especially in countries that experience summer drought, e.g., Australia and New Zealand. Therefore, understanding the factors influencing perennial ryegrass pasture persistence is crucial for sustainable land management and climate resilience in pasture-based animal production systems. Significant gaps in knowledge exist regarding the factors influencing pasture persistence, as the number of conducted studies in this area remains limited. This study aimed to investigate the factors influencing the expression of persistence in perennial ryegrass populations using airborne and ground-based sensors. A field experiment was conducted in the southwest region of Victoria, Australia, involving ten commercial perennial ryegrass cultivar–endophyte combinations in two different populations. Persistence was evaluated using sensor-based and conventional pasture measurements over two consecutive autumns. The results revealed significant fixed effects of cultivar, endophyte, and environment and their interactions on persistence traits of perennial ryegrass. Cultivars Alto, Samson, and One50 exhibited high levels of persistence when infected with novel endophyte strains. Furthermore, prolonged environmental stresses were found to drive directional selection within pasture populations. The findings emphasise the importance of selecting appropriate cultivar–endophyte combinations and early detection of signs of poor persistence to optimise sward longevity and financial returns from pasture-based animal production systems. This study fills a knowledge gap regarding the factors influencing pasture persistence and provides valuable insights for sustainable pasture management strategies. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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19 pages, 3538 KiB  
Article
The Synergistic Effect of Biochar and Microorganisms Greatly Improves Vegetation and Microbial Structure of Degraded Alpine Grassland on Qinghai–Tibet Plateau
by Jinsheng Li, Hui Li, Jianying Shang, Kesi Liu, Yixuan He and Xinqing Shao
Agronomy 2023, 13(9), 2203; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13092203 - 23 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1387
Abstract
The attenuation of soil organic carbon and the destruction of soil microbial structure are common manifestations of grassland degradation. The addition of exogenous organic carbon and microorganisms may be an effective way to quickly restore degraded grassland, but corresponding evaluations are still rare. [...] Read more.
The attenuation of soil organic carbon and the destruction of soil microbial structure are common manifestations of grassland degradation. The addition of exogenous organic carbon and microorganisms may be an effective way to quickly restore degraded grassland, but corresponding evaluations are still rare. We investigated the effects of effective microorganisms (EM) and biochar addition on vegetation biomass, microorganisms and soil properties in degraded alpine grassland. The treatments included a control (no biochar or EM addition, CK), EM addition (250 mL m−2 EM, M), biochar addition (4.00 kg m−2 biochar, C) and a mixture of biochar and EM (4.00 kg m−2 biochar and 250 mL m−2 EM, C+M). C, M and C+M rapidly increased vegetation biomass, soil organic carbon (TOC), total nitrogen (TN), available nitrogen (NH4+-N, NO3-N), available phosphorus (AP), total microbial biomass (MB), bacteria and fungus biomass in the soil, and also altered the microbial community structure. The content of soil nutrients in the C treatment was the highest, followed by C+M. The vegetation biomass and microbial biomass were the greatest in the C+M treatment, and increased by 101.04~198.52% and 22.14~45.41%, respectively. C+M can also enhance the presence of saprotrophic fungi, thereby facilitating the augmentation of both plant and soil nutrients. Overall, the biochar combined with EM addition had a synergistic effect on the restoration of degraded alpine grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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15 pages, 1353 KiB  
Article
Construction of an Early Warning System Based on a Fuzzy Matter-Element Model for Diagnosing the Health of Alpine Grassland: A Case Study of Henan County, Qinghai, China
by Huilan Shi, Mengping Liu, Shihai Zhu, Zhonghua Duan, Rongrong Wu, Xiaolong Quan, Mengci Chen, Jiexue Zhang and Youming Qiao
Agronomy 2023, 13(8), 2176; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13082176 - 19 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 889
Abstract
To maintain alpine grassland in a healthy and sustainable state, a sound warning system was developed to diagnose its potential degradation risk. Data related to grassland quality (six indicators), habitat (six indicators), and eco-carrying capacity (three indicators) at eight sampling plots were collected [...] Read more.
To maintain alpine grassland in a healthy and sustainable state, a sound warning system was developed to diagnose its potential degradation risk. Data related to grassland quality (six indicators), habitat (six indicators), and eco-carrying capacity (three indicators) at eight sampling plots were collected from Henan Mongol Autonomous County of West China in 2014 and 2017, representing five types of grassland and three grazing styles. Compared to the warning level in 2014, alpine grassland had a higher warning level in 2017, demonstrating the degradation of grassland ecosystems. Kobresia tibetica exhibited the lowest level of warning, while Kobresia humilis had the highest, indicating its corresponding safety and unsafety under the environmental change. Grassland quality is the most important index for grassland health, and soil total carbon and available phosphorus are the most important indices of habitat quality, which finally greatly influence the warning level of alpine grassland. Further analysis results suggested that winter grazing is beneficial for the health of grassland, and moderate grazing can accelerate the self-recovery of the alpine grassland due to the increase in organic matter. This study is crucial for understanding the health level of alpine grassland and its further change trends, and providing an important scientific basis for rational grazing. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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14 pages, 1978 KiB  
Article
Interacting Effects of Nitrogen Addition and Mowing on Plant Diversity and Biomass of a Typical Grassland in Inner Mongolia
by Zhaoping Yang, Hugjiltu Minggagud, Qian Wang and Hongyuan Pan
Agronomy 2023, 13(8), 2125; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13082125 - 14 Aug 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 829
Abstract
It is unclear how N addition and mowing interactively affect grassland community structure and function. We studied the short-term effects of N addition and mowing on the species diversity and biomass of a typical grassland in Inner Mongolia using a split-plot design, with [...] Read more.
It is unclear how N addition and mowing interactively affect grassland community structure and function. We studied the short-term effects of N addition and mowing on the species diversity and biomass of a typical grassland in Inner Mongolia using a split-plot design, with the whole plot representing the mowing treatment and the subplot representing the N addition rate. Three stubble heights were set at 10 cm (M2), 6 cm (M3) and 3 cm (M4), and a no-mowing treatment (M1) was also included. N addition consisted of five rates, i.e., 0 (N1), 2 (N2), 5 (N3), 10 (N4) and 20 (N5) g N m2.yr−1. Mowing significantly increased species diversity. Mowing with a stubble height of 10 cm (M2) significantly increased both species biomass and community biomass. Heavy mowing (3 cm stubble height, M4) weakened the difference in C. squarrosa biomass caused by N addition. Species richness decreased, while community biomass and Leymus chinensis biomass increased significantly with increasing N addition rate. Mowing alleviated the negative effects of N addition on species richness, and this effect was influenced by stubble height. Community biomass and L. chinensis biomass tended to be stable when N addition was greater than 10 g N m2.yr−1. The N saturation threshold of C. squarrosa biomass was much lower than that of community biomass and L. chinensis biomass. Species richness was negatively correlated with the Gini coefficient and litter production, which indicated that light competition and litter accumulation were important factors affecting the decrease in species richness in our study. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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17 pages, 4874 KiB  
Article
Modeling Climate Change Indicates Potential Shifts in the Global Distribution of Orchardgrass
by Jiqiang Wu, Lijun Yan, Junming Zhao, Jinghan Peng, Yi Xiong, Yanli Xiong and Xiao Ma
Agronomy 2023, 13(8), 1985; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13081985 - 27 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 896
Abstract
Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) is highly tolerant of shade, cold, and overwintering, making it an ideal species for grassland ecological restoration and livestock production. However, the genetic diversity of orchardgrass may be threatened by climate change. Using a Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) model [...] Read more.
Orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) is highly tolerant of shade, cold, and overwintering, making it an ideal species for grassland ecological restoration and livestock production. However, the genetic diversity of orchardgrass may be threatened by climate change. Using a Maximum Entropy (MaxEnt) model with the BCC-CSM2-MR global climate database and the Harmonized World Soil Database, we projected the current and future distribution of orchardgrass suitable areas globally. The predicted ecological thresholds for vital environmental factors were determined to be a temperature seasonality range of 411.50–1034.37 °C, a mean diurnal range of −0.88–10.69 °C, a maximum temperature of the warmest month of 22.21–35.45 °C, and precipitation of the coldest quarter of 116.56–825.40 mm. A range of AUC values from 0.914 to 0.922, indicating the accuracy of the prediction model. Our results indicate that the total area of current suitable habitats for orchardgrass was estimated to be 2133.01 × 104 km2, it is dispersed unevenly over six continents. Additionally, the suitable areas of habitats increased in higher latitudes while decreasing in lower latitudes as greenhouse gas emissions increased. Therefore, efforts should be made to save places in the southern hemisphere that are in danger of becoming unsuitable, with the possibility of using northern America, China, and Europe in the future for conservation and extensive farming. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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23 pages, 10683 KiB  
Article
Analyzing Characteristics of Grassland Gross Ecosystem Product to Inform Decision Making in the Karst Desertification Control
by Yongyao Li, Kangning Xiong, Wenfang Zhang, Shuzhen Song and Lu Luo
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1861; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071861 - 14 Jul 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 925
Abstract
Synergistically enhancing and realizing the value of grassland ecosystem services (ES) for economic activity is an important but challenging task for achieving sustainability in the karst desertification control (KDC). However, how to use grassland ES value characteristics in the KDC to make decisions [...] Read more.
Synergistically enhancing and realizing the value of grassland ecosystem services (ES) for economic activity is an important but challenging task for achieving sustainability in the karst desertification control (KDC). However, how to use grassland ES value characteristics in the KDC to make decisions on ES improvement, human well-being enhancement, and sustainable development remains unclear. In this paper, we took the contiguous region of karst desertification in Yunnan-Guangxi-Guizhou, China, a global hotspot, as the study area. Based on the valuation of the gross ecosystem product (GEP) and county economic intensity, we analyzed the structural and spatial characteristics of grassland GEP in the KDC using spatial analysis methods. We found that: (1) the grassland GEP in the KDC is mainly distributed in counties with low economic intensity (86.05% of the total number of counties) and vulnerable to losses caused by the livelihood of farmers; (2) the grassland GEP in the KDC is spatially small and scattered (the geographic concentration lies between 0.015 and 0.237), which makes it difficult to form industrial scale advantages; (3) the public product index (66.22–96.77%) and industry scale concentration (97.87–99.86%) of grassland GEP in the KDC are high, and most of the GEP is difficult to transform on the private market. Based on our findings, we proposed three corresponding recommendations for economic decision-making. The results of this study can provide a reference for economic decision-making regarding the management of grassland ES in karst areas with similar conditions and beyond. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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12 pages, 1601 KiB  
Article
Sexual Reproduction Is Not Responsible for Caragana Shrub Encroachment in Grasslands
by Lina Xie, Yuchen Li, Mingyan Lin, Hongyu Guo, Yue Wang, Lihong Wang and Chengcang Ma
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1848; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071848 - 13 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 690
Abstract
Shrubs tended to increase their abundance as climatic aridity and grazing intensity increased in the Inner Mongolian grassland. Increasing shrub abundance was believed to be due to enhanced reproduction. However, the effects of climatic aridity and grazing on the sexual reproduction of shrubs [...] Read more.
Shrubs tended to increase their abundance as climatic aridity and grazing intensity increased in the Inner Mongolian grassland. Increasing shrub abundance was believed to be due to enhanced reproduction. However, the effects of climatic aridity and grazing on the sexual reproduction of shrubs in grassland remain largely unclear. In this study, we conducted field experiments with Caragana microphylla to examine the variation of sexual reproduction aspects (seed production, seed vigor, and sapling establishment) along a climatic aridity gradient (subhumid, semiarid, arid, and dry arid zones) and a grazing intensity gradient (fenced, mildly grazed, and severely grazed). We then quantified the population growth rate based on seed production and sapling establishment rates. Our objective was to evaluate whether sexual reproduction is the main mechanism for Caragana encroachment into grasslands. We found that climatic aridity decreased seed quantity and seed vigor but increased the sapling establishment rate of Caragana shrubs. Under ungrazed conditions, climatic aridity did not affect population growth rates, while under grazing conditions, increased aridity stresses reduced population growth rates. Grazing reduced seed production, sapling establishment, and population growth rates. Climatic aridity enhanced the negative effects of grazing on sexual reproduction, while grazing intensified the negative effects of aridity on the population growth of Caragana shrubs. In conclusion, climatic aridity, grazing, and their combined effects had negative effects on the sexual reproduction of Caragana shrubs. Therefore, sexual reproduction could not fully explain the increased abundance of shrubs with increasing aridity and grazing. Clonal reproduction might be of considerable importance for understanding the mechanism of shrub encroachment in grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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14 pages, 685 KiB  
Article
Using Ecological Stoichimetric Characteristies to Inform Grassland Management in the Karst Desertification Area
by Guochang Pan, Shuzhen Song, Xueling Wang and Yongkuan Chi
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1841; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071841 - 12 Jul 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 753
Abstract
C, N and P play an important indicator role in explaining the material cycles and elemental balances of living and non-living systems. In order to control karst rocky desertification, China has established a large number of artificial grasslands for the development of herbivorous [...] Read more.
C, N and P play an important indicator role in explaining the material cycles and elemental balances of living and non-living systems. In order to control karst rocky desertification, China has established a large number of artificial grasslands for the development of herbivorous animal husbandry, which has played an important role in ecological restoration and economic development. However, the effects of different use patterns on the ecological stoichiometry of the carbon (C), nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) of the grassland plant–soil–microorganism are not clear. In this study, the effects of grazing grassland (GG), mowing grassland (MG) and enclosed grassland (EG) on C, N and P and their ecological stoichiometry in the artificial grassland plant–soil–microbe were investigated in the karst desertification control area in Southern China. The results showed that (1) the C content was EG > GG > MG. The N content was GG > EG > MG, while the P content was MG > GG > EG. C:N, C:P and N:P were shown as EG > GG > MG. The plant N:P was more than 20, indicating a P deficiency and limitation, especially in EG. (2) The content of C and P in soil was EG > GG > MG. The N content was GG > EG > MG. The soil C:N showed EG > MG > GG, while C:P and N:P were shown as MG > GG > EG. The soil N:P ratios were all less than 14, indicating that all of them had an obvious N limitation. (3) Soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) was GG > MG > EG. Soil microbial biomass nitrogen (MBN) was GG > EG > MG. Soil microbial biomass phosphorus (MBP) showed EG > GG > MG. MBC:MBN was MG > EG > GG. MBC:MBP was MG > EG > GG. MBN:MBP was GG > MG > EG. The MBN:MBP in GG and MG was greater than 9.6, which is P-limited, while the MBN:MBP in EG is less than 8.9, which is N-limited. (4) Plant C and N were significantly correlated with soil C and N, but plant P was significantly negatively correlated with soil P, while MBP was significantly positively correlated with soil TP. Soil microorganisms had the tendency to assimilate available P in GG and MG treatments, but the potential of releasing P from mineralized soil organic matter was higher in EG treatment. The results showed that the chemical properties and stoichiometric characteristics of the plant–soil–microorganism were significantly changed by different grassland-use methods, which provided scientific guidance for the management of C, N and P elements and the further optimization of soil microbial environment for artificial grassland in the karst rocky desertification area. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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10 pages, 1010 KiB  
Article
How Are Warm-Season Pastures’ Nutritive Value and Fermentation Characteristics Affected by Open Pasture, Silvopasture, and Sward Herbage Maturity?
by Mariane Rodrigues Ferreira, Abmael da Silva Cardoso, Marina Elizabeth Barbosa Andrade, Thais Ribeiro Brito and Ana Cláudia Ruggieri
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1756; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071756 - 28 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1137
Abstract
This study aimed to evaluate the forage mass and nutritional value (NV) of Guinea Massai grass (Megathyrsus maximus × Megathyrsus infestum) in an open pasture (OP) or the silvopastoral system (SPS) at different stages of development (SDs). The experimental design was [...] Read more.
This study aimed to evaluate the forage mass and nutritional value (NV) of Guinea Massai grass (Megathyrsus maximus × Megathyrsus infestum) in an open pasture (OP) or the silvopastoral system (SPS) at different stages of development (SDs). The experimental design was completely randomized, with five replications. The treatments were distributed in a factorial scheme 2 × 4, corresponding to types of systems (OP and SPS) and four SD (vegetative stage—S1, pre-flowering—S2, full flowering—S3 and maturity after flowering—S4). There was no interaction of the system × stage of plant development in any of the variables evaluated. The production of forage mass and Guinea Massai grass morphological components did not differ (p > 0.05) between SPS and OP. However, they differed between the SDs (p ≤ 0.05), with an increasing linear effect for forage mass, percentage of the stem, and dead material, and decreasing for leaf percentage and leaf: stem ratio. Only protein content differed (p < 0.05) among the chemical composition variables between culture systems. The shading caused by the SPS did not decrease the forage mass, NV, and in vitro dry matter digestibility of Guinea Massai grass compared to the system in OP. The advance of the SD of Guinea Massai grass increases the forage mass, with higher proportions of morphological components of low NV, such as stem and dead material. Silvopastoral system of Guinea Massai grass and eucalyptus is effective to prolongate the grazing season, with a greater amount of green leaves in the sward and better NV, without compromising herbage mass production in the forage growing season. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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11 pages, 1078 KiB  
Article
The Impact of Root-Invasive Fungi on Dominant and Invasive Plant Species in Degraded Grassland at Nanshan Pasture
by Yanxia Zhang, Jiechao Chang, Jiayao Xie, Liquan Yang, Mohamed S. Sheteiwy, Abdel-Raouf A. Moustafa, Mohamed S. Zaghloul and Haiyan Ren
Agronomy 2023, 13(7), 1666; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13071666 - 21 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 894
Abstract
Overgrazing leads to the degradation of grazing lands, which seriously threatens the stability of grassland ecosystems. Root-invading fungi, as one of the main influencing factors, can cause plant diseases in grasslands, reduce the proportion of dominant plant species, increase the proportion of invasive [...] Read more.
Overgrazing leads to the degradation of grazing lands, which seriously threatens the stability of grassland ecosystems. Root-invading fungi, as one of the main influencing factors, can cause plant diseases in grasslands, reduce the proportion of dominant plant species, increase the proportion of invasive poisonous weeds, and further aggravate degradation. In order to predict and improve the effects of root-invading fungi on grassland degradation, we conducted an in situ soil indoor control experiment using soils collected from non-degraded, moderately degraded, and severely degraded areas of Nanshan pasture in Hunan Province, China. We used monoculture or mixed grasslands of dominant plant species, including Lolium perenne, Trifolium repens, and the invasive weed Persicaria hydropiper, and inoculated them with local strains of pathogenic Fusarium species (Fusarium boothii and Fusarium circinatum) and beneficial fungi Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi (AMF) and Trichoderma hamatum to explore how different strains of fungi affect plant growth and community dynamics. The results showed that Fusarium species (Fusarium boothii and Fusarium circinatum), as a major pathogenic fungus, inhibited the growth of the dominant grass Lolium perenne in moderately and severely degraded soils, which provided growth space and resources for invasive weeds Persicaria hydropiper and further aggravated the degree of grassland degradation. However, the collaborative effect of beneficial fungi (AMF and Trichoderma) and their inhibitory effect on Fusarium species (Fusarium boothii and Fusarium circinatum) could promote the growth of dominant plants and weeds in soils with varying degrees of degradation, which is beneficial to maintaining the stability and diversity of grassland plant communities. The collaborative effect of beneficial fungi could also increase the availability of nutrients in severely degraded soils. Therefore, using beneficial fungi (AMF and Trichoderma) for soil improvement and reducing the harm of pathogenic Fusarium species (Fusarium boothii and Fusarium circinatum) to plant growth is of great significance for promoting the protection and management of grassland ecosystems, as well as for the restoration and recovery of grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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13 pages, 280 KiB  
Article
The Potential for Endozoochorous Dispersal of Vachellia nilotica Seeds by Goats: Implications for Bush Encroachment
by Fortune L. Manganyi, Julius Tjelele, Khanyisile R. Mbatha, Ngoako Letsoalo and Francuois Müller
Agronomy 2023, 13(6), 1599; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13061599 - 13 Jun 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1107
Abstract
Seed dispersal has become an important component in understanding plant–animal interaction. Recently, there have been concerns about the role of ruminants, particularly browsers, in the dispersal of woody plant seeds. This study aimed to determine whether including Vachellia nilotica seeds in livestock, diets [...] Read more.
Seed dispersal has become an important component in understanding plant–animal interaction. Recently, there have been concerns about the role of ruminants, particularly browsers, in the dispersal of woody plant seeds. This study aimed to determine whether including Vachellia nilotica seeds in livestock, diets could reduce the spread of viable seeds in the rangelands and control bush encroachment. The shoots and seed pods of Vachellia nilotica were harvested and analyzed for fiber, protein, and mineral nutrients at different seed pods inclusion rates, with or without a feed additive. Six diets were selected for feeding 24 goats and quantifying seed recovery and germination after ingestion. Results indicated that including seed pods and feed additives to Vachellia nilotica shoots significantly improved the quality of the fodder. Chipping the seed pods prior to including them in the diet resulted in 13% intact seed recovery, and approximately 2% of these seeds were recovered after ingestion. These recovered seeds were mostly still viable but were still dormant as seed coats were not sufficiently damaged after ingestion. Therefore, viable seeds may still be dispersed in the rangeland, leading to further bush encroachment. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
20 pages, 1813 KiB  
Article
Compensatory Structural Growth Responses of Early-Succession Native Warm-Season Grass Stands to Defoliation Management
by Vitalis W. Temu and Maru K. Kering
Agronomy 2023, 13(5), 1280; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13051280 - 29 Apr 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1113
Abstract
There is a growing recognition of the significance of unique morphological and physiological adaptation of native warm-season grasses (NWSG) of North America as summer forage resources and major grassland ecosystem components. Defoliation management plays a major role in ensuring eco-friendly utilization of grassland [...] Read more.
There is a growing recognition of the significance of unique morphological and physiological adaptation of native warm-season grasses (NWSG) of North America as summer forage resources and major grassland ecosystem components. Defoliation management plays a major role in ensuring eco-friendly utilization of grassland natural resources. To assess sward structural responses of big bluestem (BB, Andropogon gerardii Vitman), eastern gamagrass (GG, Tripsacum dactyloides L.), indiangrass (IG, Sorghastrum nutans L. Nash), and switchgrass (SG, Panicum virgatum L.) stands to seasonal changes in harvest regimes, a five-year forage harvesting trial was conducted, in a randomized complete block design, at Virginia State University’s research farm. Vegetation structural response attributes (sward-height, canopy closure, stand density and basal cover) of newly established the NWSG stands to second year changes in harvest regimes were monitored. In 2013, 64 plots of year-old stands of transplanted BB, GG, IG, and SG separated by ≥120-cm alleys were cut once in early-August and mid-November to suppress weeds and promote tillering. Starting June 2014, each plot had three 1.5-m wide side-by-side harvest-strips cut once-, twice-, or thrice year−1 (frequencies) ending mid-Oct for four consecutive years followed by a single mid-summer harvest in 26 June 2018, using a forage plot-harvester. In 2015, harvest frequencies for the three- and single-cut strips, in plots 32–64, were switched/flipped once and never reverted. Data was recorded on four early-summer and late-fall sward heights, from each strip at 60-cm intervals before the first and the last harvest, each year. early-spring basal- and canopy-diameter, for mid-April 2015 and 2016, concurrent early-spring canopy light interception, using the LI-191 Line Quantum Sensor, and season-end visual obstruction heights, for stand density in 2016 and 2017. All regrowth sward-heights showed effects of harvest frequency and exhibited compensatory structural responses to the change in harvest regimes. Basal and canopy diameters tended to be greater for the single-cut strips that were previously cut thrice. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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14 pages, 13303 KiB  
Article
Vegetation Characteristics of the Main Grassland Types in China Respond Differently to the Duration of Enclosure: A Meta-Analysis
by Cheng Liu, Hui Li, Kesi Liu, Xinqing Shao, Jing Huang, Muji Siri, Changliang Feng and Xiaomeng Yang
Agronomy 2023, 13(3), 854; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13030854 - 15 Mar 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1608
Abstract
Enclosure is one of the useful measures to protect and restore degraded grasslands, and it is widely used around the world. The vegetation characteristics of grasslands directly reflect the recovery status of degraded grasslands; however, conflicting results of plant traits were continually achieved [...] Read more.
Enclosure is one of the useful measures to protect and restore degraded grasslands, and it is widely used around the world. The vegetation characteristics of grasslands directly reflect the recovery status of degraded grasslands; however, conflicting results of plant traits were continually achieved in the numerous on-site studies of enclosure in the last two decades. It is necessary to conduct a systematic assessment to find a general conclusion for the effects of enclosure on different grasslands. Studies on the enclosure grasslands in China were taken as the objects to refine the relationships between grassland vegetation characteristics and enclosure measures using meta-analysis. Enclosure had positive effects on the restoration of vegetation coverage, aboveground and belowground biomass, and diversity of degraded grasslands. Different vegetation characteristics and grassland types showed different responses to enclosure duration. The vegetation productivity reached a maximum in the 11–15 years of enclosure for alpine grasslands and typical steppe grasslands, 6–10 years for desert grasslands, and more than 15 years of enclosure for meadow grasslands. Plant species diversity reached the peak values when alpine grasslands and typical steppe grasslands were enclosed approximately 10 years, desert grasslands approximately 11–15 years, and meadow grasslands approximately 5 years. These results indicated that the management strategies of enclosed grasslands should be adjusted reasonably according to the types and the management objectives of grasslands in order to maintain or even improve the condition and services of grassland ecosystems. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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11 pages, 3251 KiB  
Communication
The Current Distribution of Carex alatauensis in the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau Estimated by MaxEnt
by Yunfei Xing, Jianjun Shi, Kejia De, Xiaoli Wang, Wei Wang, Yuan Ma, Hairong Zhang, Miaohua He and Qingqing Liu
Agronomy 2023, 13(2), 564; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13020564 - 16 Feb 2023
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 1449
Abstract
Modeling the current distribution of and predicting suitable habitats for threatened species support the species conservation and restoration planning process. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to model the actual distribution and predict environmentally suitable habitats for Carex alatauensis S.R.Zhang 2015, a [...] Read more.
Modeling the current distribution of and predicting suitable habitats for threatened species support the species conservation and restoration planning process. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to model the actual distribution and predict environmentally suitable habitats for Carex alatauensis S.R.Zhang 2015, a locally threatened native grass species on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. To realize this objective, based on the geographical samples within the natural distribution of C. alatauensis, the dominant climatic factors in its potential distribution range were analyzed using the maximum entropy (MaxEnt) model. The results showed that the average values of the area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of the training data were 0.833 ± 0.044, which indicated that the accuracy of the MaxEnt model was pretty high for modeling potential distribution regions of C. alatauensis. The combined results from the Jackknife test and the presented contribution of environmental variables revealed that the annual precipitation, the growth season precipitation, and the precipitation of the driest month were the key climatic factors that restricted the distribution of C. alatauensis on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau. It is predicted that the potential distribution area of C. alatauensis on the Qinghai–Tibet Plateau is 1.96 × 106 km2, and the most suitable area is 3.7 × 105 km2, mainly located in the Qilian Mountains, the Himalayas, and the Qingtanggula Mountains. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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17 pages, 5900 KiB  
Article
Integrating Native Plant Mixtures and Arbuscular Mycorrhizal Fungi Inoculation Increases the Productivity of Degraded Grassland
by Jiechao Chang, Kang Li, Jiayao Xie, Yanxia Zhang, Sitong Wang, Haiyan Ren and Manqiang Liu
Agronomy 2023, 13(1), 7; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13010007 - 20 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1472
Abstract
Intense human activities break the grassland–livestock balance and accelerate grassland degradation. We evaluated the use of native dominant species combined with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in order to recover grassland and restrain grassland degradation. We conducted a full factorial greenhouse experiment to evaluate [...] Read more.
Intense human activities break the grassland–livestock balance and accelerate grassland degradation. We evaluated the use of native dominant species combined with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) in order to recover grassland and restrain grassland degradation. We conducted a full factorial greenhouse experiment to evaluate the interaction effects of native species of distinct traits grass Lolium perenne (L) and legume Trifolium repens (T) with arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) inoculation on grass productivity and soil properties across non-degraded, lightly degraded, and severely degraded soils. The grass–legume mixture was manipulated with five ratios (T:L = 1:0, T:L = 1:1, T:L = 3:1, T:L = 1:3, T:L = 0:1). The results showed that L. perenne significantly increased grassland productivity at different grass–legume ratios, regardless of AMF presence or absence. AMF inoculation increased plant N and P content uptake and improved the productivity of degraded grasslands, especially in severely degraded grasslands. The NO3−-N and available P concentrations increased in soil when the legume component increased from T:L = 0:1 (grass monoculture) to T:L = 1:0 (legume monoculture). This may be because the presence of Lolium perenne (L) can promote nitrogen fixation in legumes. Structural equation modeling indicated that grass–legume mixtures directly affected plant biomass, whereas AMF affected plant biomass via providing plant nutrients. A soil quality index based on minimum datasets indicated a significant positive effect of artificial grassland establishment on soil quality. We conclude that planting T:L = 0:1 and T:L = 1:3 combined with AMF inoculation can be used to recover degraded grassland production, and planting T:L = 1:1 and T:L = 1:3 plus AMF inoculation can be applied for grassland nutrient accumulation and stability maintenance. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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21 pages, 4698 KiB  
Article
Aboveground Biomass in China’s Managed Grasslands and Their Responses to Environmental and Management Variations
by Huimei Meng, Jingrui Yang, Wenjuan Sun, Liujun Xiao and Guocheng Wang
Agronomy 2022, 12(12), 2913; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12122913 - 22 Nov 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1481
Abstract
Aboveground biomass (AGB) in managed grasslands can vary across a suite of environmental and management conditions; however, there lacks a quantitative assessment at the national scale of China. Although the potential effects of individual drivers (e.g., species, nutrient fertilization, and water management) have [...] Read more.
Aboveground biomass (AGB) in managed grasslands can vary across a suite of environmental and management conditions; however, there lacks a quantitative assessment at the national scale of China. Although the potential effects of individual drivers (e.g., species, nutrient fertilization, and water management) have been examined in China’s managed grasslands, no attempts have been made to comprehensively assess the effects of multiple variables on AGB. Using a meta-data analysis approach, we created a database composed of AGB and associated attributes of managed grasslands in China. The database was used to assess the responses of AGB to anthropogenic factors, in addition to a suite of natural variables including climate, soil, and topography. The average AGB in managed grasslands of China is approximately 630 g m−2 of dry matter, ranging from 55 to 2172 g m−2 (95% confidence interval). Medicago sativa is the most widely planted species in China’s managed grasslands, followed by Elymus dahuricus and Bromus japonicus. The national average AGB of these three species was around 692, 530, and 856 g m−2, respectively. For each species, AGB shows a large discrepancy across different places. In general, grassland AGB depends substantially on species, environments, and management practices. The dependence can be well described by a linear mixed-effects regression in which a series of biotic and abiotic factors are used as predictors. We highlight that establishing managed grassland can potentially contribute to not only AGB enhancement, but also grassland restoration on degraded natural grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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11 pages, 2036 KiB  
Article
Sandy Habitats Play an Important Role in Shrub Encroachment in Grasslands
by Lina Xie, Yuchen Li, Hongyu Guo, Chunwen Wang, Qing Chen, Peng He and Chengcang Ma
Agronomy 2022, 12(11), 2858; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12112858 - 16 Nov 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1367
Abstract
Shrub species have increased in density and cover in desertification areas, however, the role of sandy habitats in contributing to the expansion of shrubs is poorly understood. Although the effect of sandy habitats on plant growth and reproduction have been demonstrated, most existing [...] Read more.
Shrub species have increased in density and cover in desertification areas, however, the role of sandy habitats in contributing to the expansion of shrubs is poorly understood. Although the effect of sandy habitats on plant growth and reproduction have been demonstrated, most existing studies lack either experimental demonstration or an integrated study during the whole shrub life cycle. We performed field and laboratory experiments to examine the responses of four stages in the life cycle of shrubs (seed germination, plant growth, seed reproduction, clonal reproduction) to sandy habitats (including sand substrate, sand burial and wind erosion) for Caragana shrubs. Results showed that both sand substrate and sand burial facilitated seed germination, seedling biomass, sapling establishment, plant growth, and root-shoot ratio of Caragana. Meanwhile, they both strongly increased seed number and seed preservation, and thus enhanced sexual reproduction. Sand burial favored clonal reproduction of Caragana by promoting the formation of branch-derived ramets, while wind erosion benefited clonal reproduction by facilitating the formation of root-derived ramets. These results suggested that sandy habitats facilitated seed germination, plant growth, sexual reproduction, and clonal reproduction of Caragana, which could explain why shrub abundance, shrub area and shrub height of Caragana in sandy areas was higher than in grasslands. Our study provided an experimental demonstration that sandy habitats promoted the population growth of Caragana shrubs during the whole life cycle and highlighted the significant role of sandy habitats in facilitating shrub encroachment in grasslands. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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13 pages, 2240 KiB  
Article
Applying Trait-Based Modeling to Achieve Functional Targets during the Ecological Restoration of an Arid Mine Area
by Jian Hou, Menghan Wu and Haobo Feng
Agronomy 2022, 12(11), 2833; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy12112833 - 13 Nov 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1223
Abstract
(1) Background: Because ecosystem degradation has become a global phenomenon which seriously affects the health of natural ecosystems and human well-being, restoration of degraded ecosystems has attracted increasing attention. However, many of the methods used in current ecological restoration work have rarely combined [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Because ecosystem degradation has become a global phenomenon which seriously affects the health of natural ecosystems and human well-being, restoration of degraded ecosystems has attracted increasing attention. However, many of the methods used in current ecological restoration work have rarely combined ecological restoration practices with the quantitative goal of restoring ecosystem function. (2) Methods: In this study, based on the conceptual framework of response-effect traits and Community Assembly by Trait Selection model (CATS model), a restoration strategy for a degraded abandoned mine in Wuhai City, China has been provided. This restoration strategy connected the ecosystem function targets to the appropriate recovery species and their required abundances. (3) Results: The results showed that a relative abundance ratio of 8:2 for S. grandis to B. dasyphylla was best for a shady slope, while a 6:4 ratio of K. tragus to B. dasyphylla was best for repair on a sunny slope of the degraded mine area. (4) Conclusion: This study provides a typical example of applying ecological theory in practice that will be useful for current and future studies and applications. This approach will ensure that governance efforts to restore degraded ecosystems are effective and efficient. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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Review

Jump to: Editorial, Research

26 pages, 3708 KiB  
Review
Research Progress on Grassland Eco-Assets and Eco-Products and Its Implications for the Enhancement of Ecosystem Service Function of Karst Desertification Control
by Kangning Xiong, Cheng He and Yongkuan Chi
Agronomy 2023, 13(9), 2394; https://doi.org/10.3390/agronomy13092394 - 15 Sep 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1075
Abstract
Grasslands in karst ecological fragile areas can effectively mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, maintain human well-being, and play a significant role in improving the health of regional ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods. Thus, the study of grassland ecological assets and ecological products comprehensively examines [...] Read more.
Grasslands in karst ecological fragile areas can effectively mitigate climate change, conserve biodiversity, maintain human well-being, and play a significant role in improving the health of regional ecosystems and farmers’ livelihoods. Thus, the study of grassland ecological assets and ecological products comprehensively examines their effects on grassland ecosystem services based on the traditional paradigm. This procedure is crucial from a strategic perspective for rebuilding damaged grassland ecosystems in karst regions, strengthening the efficacy of desertification control, and encouraging sustainable economic growth. In this review, 143 pertinent works on grassland ecological assets and ecological products are numerically and qualitatively analyzed. The findings demonstrated the following: (i) After 2012, there was an exponential increase in the number of studies. The most frequently researched topics were ecological assets, functional enhancement, and service management contents, accounting for 82.09% of the total literature; the research regions were primarily distributed in Asia and North America. (ii) The research patterns were slowly diversifying and becoming more interdisciplinary. (iii) There are five key scientific issues to be addressed in the research on grassland ecosystems and we summarize the main developments and landmark achievements. (iv) There is an intrinsic relationship between grassland ecological assets, ecological products, and desertification control, and we propose insights into the enhancement of karst grassland ecosystem service functions based on three perspectives: fragile environment, trade-off synergy, and service management. This study provides valuable insights for the development of regional ecological livestock and the scientific promotion of integrated desertification control. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Grassland and Pasture Ecological Management and Utilization)
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