Short-term grazing exclusion has no impact on soil properties and nutrients of degraded alpine grassland in Tibet, China
- 1Key Laboratory of Mountain Surface Processes and Ecological Regulation, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Chengdu 610041, China
- 2Key Laboratory of Ecosystem Network Observation and Modeling, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, China
- 3School of Public Administration, Hohai University, Nanjing 210098, China
Abstract. Since the 1980s, alpine grasslands have been seriously degraded on the Tibetan Plateau. Grazing exclusion by fencing has been widely adopted to restore degraded grasslands. To clarify the effect of grazing exclusion on soil quality, we investigated soil properties and nutrients by comparing free-grazing (FG) and grazing exclusion (GE) grasslands in Tibet. Soil properties – including soil bulk density, pH, particle size distributions, and proportion of aggregates – showed no significant difference between FG and GE plots. Soil organic carbon, soil available nitrogen, and available phosphorus contents did not differ with grazing exclusion treatments in both the 0–15 and 15–30 cm layer. However, soil total nitrogen and total phosphorus contents were remarkably reduced due to grazing exclusion at 0–15 cm depth. Furthermore, growing season temperature and/or growing season precipitation had significant effects on almost all soil property and nutrient indicators. This study demonstrates that grazing exclusion had no impact on most soil properties and nutrients in Tibet. Additionally, the potential shift of climate conditions should be considered when recommending any policy designed for restoration of degraded soil in alpine grasslands in the future. Nevertheless, because the results of the present study come from a short-term (6–8 years) grazing exclusion, the assessments of the ecological effects of the grazing exclusion management strategy on soil quality of degraded alpine grasslands in Tibet still need long-term continued research.