Effects of excluding grazing on the vegetation and soils of degraded sparse-elm grassland in the Horqin Sandy Land, China

Jiao Tang, Anthony J. Davy, Deming Jiang, Ala Musa, Dafu Wu, Yongcui Wang, Chunping Miao

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Livestock grazing is a crucial cause of vegetation degradation and desertification in sandy lands. The sparse-elm grassland of Horqin Sandy Land, China has suffered severe degradation of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Management to exclude grazing is often necessary for ecological restoration, especially in arid and semi-arid regions. We report effects on vegetation and soils in a 10-year experiment to exclude livestock, completely or seasonally, in comparison with a continuously grazed area in Horqin. Complete exclusion of grazing and restriction of grazing to summer both led to significantly increased plant cover and density relative to the grazed control. Species richness increased, reflected in higher Shannon-Wiener indices; only complete exclusion increased the Simpson diversity index, whereas Pielou evenness was significantly lowest under seasonal grazing. Exclosure treatments were also associated with improved soil texture, and increased water retention, available nitrogen, total nitrogen, total carbon and total phosphorus. Soil pH and C/N ratio were highest under the seasonal grazing regime. The results indicated that exclosure management indeed improved biodiversity and ecosystem services in an erosion-prone region. Although total exclosure was most effective in restoration of degraded sparse-elm grassland, seasonal grazing management was highly beneficial and represented a good compromise with resource utilization and economic development.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)340-348
Number of pages9
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Early online date12 Nov 2016
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016


  • Exclosure management
  • Soil
  • Vegetation
  • Degraded grassland
  • Horqin Sandy Land

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