Effects and relationships of grazing intensity on multiple ecosystem services in the Inner Mongolian steppe

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  • Fan Fan
  • Cunzhu Liang
  • Yongkang Tang
  • Inez Harker-Schuch
  • John R. Porter

Grassland ecosystems are one of the most important terrestrial ecosystems in the world, producing essential both goods and ecosystem services (ES) for human beings. The Inner Mongolian steppe is a major grassland ecosystem in Northern China, covering 13.5% of the northern Chinese grassland area, and playing important ecological roles for the adjacent region of the capital Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei. Quantification of grassland ES under the different utilization patterns is vital for the maintenance of multiple ES and mitigation against ES loss in this region. We made a manipulative experiment with four grazing intensities (grazing exclusion, GE; light grazing intensity, LG; medium grazing intensity, MG; heavy grazing intensity, HG). We then quantified the intensities of eight different grassland ES (1. herbage intake, HT; 2. biodiversity conservation, BI; 3. soil nutrient retention, SN; 4 soil carbon stocks SC; 5. soil erosion prevention, SEP; 6. soil water storage, SWC; 7. potential nutrient recycling, PNC; 8. carbon sequestration from atmosphere. CS) and total ES via a series of field measurements. Pearson coefficients and trade-offs index were used to access the above ES relationships and degree of trade-offs between ES. Grazing intensities significantly (p < 0.05) affected the grassland intensities of ‘regulating’, ‘culture’ and ‘provisioning’ services, but the ‘supporting’ services. We found three types of relationships (trade-offs, synergy or neutral) have been found in this study. Trade-offs occurred between ‘provisioning’ and ‘regulating’ services. Although GE management presented significantly higher intensity of total ES (0.64) than LG (0.52), LG management significantly weakened the trade-offs between ‘provisioning’ and ‘regulating’ services (Trade-offs index 0.22) in comparison with GE (Trade-offs index 11.02). Our study suggests, therefore, that LG is the most suitable grassland utilization practice in the Inner Mongolian steppe.

Original languageEnglish
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Pages (from-to)642-650
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jul 2019

    Research areas

  • Bio-physical quantification, Ecosystem services, Grazing intensity, Inner Mongolian steppe, Trade-offs

ID: 223676859