The effects of grazing on the spatial pattern of elm (Ulmus pumila L.) in the sparse woodland steppe of Horqin Sandy Land in northeastern China
Abstract. The aim of this study was to explore the effects of grazing on the formation of the spatial pattern of elm growth in a sparse woodland steppe. We used a point pattern method to analyze the elm trees within different diameter at breast height (DBH) classes in both grazed and fenced plots, which were established in Horqin Sandy Land of northeastern China. The results showed that, in the grazed plot, the distances where transformation between random and clustered patterns occurred in class 1 (10 cm ≤ DBH ≤ 15 cm) and class 2 (15 cm < DBH ≤ 20 cm) were 2.27 and 2.37 m, respectively. Meanwhile, in the fenced plot, the distances between random and aggregated patterns that occurred in classes 1, 2 and 3 (DBH > 20 cm) were 3.13, 3.13 and 7.85 m, respectively. In the fenced plot, at distances larger than 67.72 m there was a negative association between classes 1 and 2, which was also the case between classes 2 and 3 and between classes 1 and 3 for distances greater than 104.09 and 128.54 m, respectively. Meanwhile, negative associations occurred only at distances larger than 29.38 m in the grazed plot. These findings suggest that grazing reduced the competition intensity between elm trees; and therefore, grazing management could be an effective strategy used to regulate the elm population in the degraded sandy land of northern China.