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

Muneto Hirobe, Junji Kondo, Altangerel Enkhbaatar, Narantsetseg Amartuvshin, Noboru Fujita, Keiji Sakamoto, Ken Yoshikawa, Knut Kielland

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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 shrub-steppe 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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1123-1132
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Soils and Sediments
Volume13
Issue number7
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2013

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Keywords

  • Livestock grazing
  • Mongolian grasslands
  • Semivariogram
  • Soil heterogeneity
  • Soil nitrogen mineralization
  • Vegetation structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Stratigraphy
  • Earth-Surface Processes

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