Rooting by Tibetan pigs diminishes carbon stocks in alpine meadows by decreasing soil moisture
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Carbon stocks in alpine meadows on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau are being threatened by increases in livestock herding practices. However, the extent to which current fast-growing disturbance by Tibetan pig rooting alters carbon stocks in these meadows and the underlying processes are still unclear.
We conducted a 3-year study in meadows with three different plant communities on the southeast Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau to explore the effects of rooting by Tibetan pigs on carbon stocks.
Rooting by Tibetan pigs decreased plant biomass carbon (PBC), soil organic carbon (SOC), microbial biomass carbon (MBC), and ecosystem carbon (EC) by 91.25%, 30.57%, 28.94%, and 40.47%, respectively. Soil moisture (SM) was the most significant factor negatively associated with PBC, SOC, and EC. Additionally, a decreased SM by rooting also exerted an indirect effect on MBC by directly reducing plant biomass.
Rooting by Tibetan pigs diminishes carbon stocks by decreasing SM, threatening carbon stocks stored in alpine meadows. Thus, caging or reducing the breeding number of Tibetan pigs combined with restoring soil water levels would be effective ways to recover and maintain carbon stocks in alpine meadows on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau.
KeywordsPlant biomass carbon Soil organic carbon Microbial biomass carbon Soil environment Qinghai-Tibetan plateau
This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 41867059, 31370497 and 41877346), Yunnan Innovative Research Team of Plateau Wetland Science (2012HC007), and Open Research Fund of the State Key Laboratory of Estuarine and Coastal Research (SKLEC-KF201702). The authors thank the members of the National Plateau Wetlands Research Center and the Southwest Forestry University for their assistance with the collection of field data.
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