Journal of Arid Land

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 588–600 | Cite as

Effects of grazing on net primary productivity, evapotranspiration and water use efficiency in the grasslands of Xinjiang, China

  • Xiaotao Huang
  • Geping LuoEmail author
  • Feipeng Ye
  • Qifei Han


Grazing is a main human activity in the grasslands of Xinjiang, China. It is vital to identify the effects of grazing on the sustainable utilization of local grasslands. However, the effects of grazing on net primary productivity (NPP), evapotranspiration (ET) and water use efficiency (WUE) in this region remain unclear. Using the spatial Biome-BGC grazing model, we explored the effects of grazing on NPP, ET and WUE across the different regions and grassland types in Xinjiang during 1979–2012. NPP, ET and WUE under the grazed scenario were generally lower than those under the ungrazed scenario, and the differences showed increasing trends over time. The decreases in NPP, ET and WUE varied significantly among the regions and grassland types. NPP decreased as follows: among the regions, Northern Xinjiang (16.60 g C/(m2•a)), Tianshan Mountains (15.94 g C/(m2•a)) and Southern Xinjiang (−3.54 g C/(m2•a)); and among the grassland types, typical grasslands (25.70 g C/(m2•a)), swamp meadows (25.26 g C/(m2•a)), mid-mountain meadows (23.39 g C/(m2•a)), alpine meadows (6.33 g C/(m2•a)), desert grasslands (5.82 g C/(m2•a)) and saline meadows (2.90 g C/(m2•a)). ET decreased as follows: among the regions, Tianshan Mountains (28.95 mm/a), Northern Xinjiang (8.11 mm/a) and Southern Xinjiang (7.57 mm/a); and among the grassland types, mid-mountain meadows (29.30 mm/a), swamp meadows (25.07 mm/a), typical grasslands (24.56 mm/a), alpine meadows (20.69 mm/a), desert grasslands (11.06 mm/a) and saline meadows (3.44 mm/a). WUE decreased as follows: among the regions, Northern Xinjiang (0.053 g C/kg H2O), Tianshan Mountains (0.034 g C/kg H2O) and Southern Xinjiang (0.012 g C/kg H2O); and among the grassland types, typical grasslands (0.0609 g C/kg H2O), swamp meadows (0.0548 g C/kg H2O), mid-mountain meadows (0.0501 g C/kg H2O), desert grasslands (0.0172 g C/kg H2O), alpine meadows (0.0121 g C/kg H2O) and saline meadows (0.0067 g C/kg H2O). In general, the decreases in NPP and WUE were more significant in the regions with relatively high levels of vegetation growth because of the high grazing intensity in these regions. The decreases in ET were significant in mountainous areas due to the terrain and high grazing intensity.


grazing effect grassland type net primary productivity evapotranspiration water use efficiency Biome-BGC grazing model 


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.



This work was supported financially by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (41361140361, 41271126) and the Project of State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology (Y471163). The authors declare no conflict of interest.


  1. Banks T, Doman S. 2001. Kazakh nomads, rangeland policy and the environment in Altay: insights from new range ecology. In: the Second International Convention of Asia Scholars. Berlin: Free University. [2001-08-12]. Scholar
  2. Bell L W, Kirkegaard J A, Swan A, et al. 2011. Impacts of soil damage by grazing livestock on crop productivity. Soil and Tillage Research, 113(1): 19–29.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bond-Lamberty B, Gower S T, Ahl D E, et al. 2005. Reimplementation of the biome-BGC model to simulate successional change. Tree Physiology, 25(4): 413–424.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Chen Y X, Lee G, Lee P, et al. 2007. Model analysis of grazing effect on above-ground biomass and above-ground net primary production of a Mongolian grassland ecosystem. Journal of Hydrology, 333(1): 155–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Dong S K, Kang M Y, Hu Z Z, et al. 2004a. Performance of cultivated perennial grass mixtures under different grazing intensities in the alpine region of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Grass and Forage Science, 59(3): 298–306.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Dong S K, Jiang Y, Wei M J, et al. 2004b. Effects of nitrogen application rate on soil and plant characteristics in pastures of perennial grass mixtures in the alpine region of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China. Australian Journal of Soil Research, 42(7): 727–735.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Du J Q, Jiaerheng A, Zhao C X, et al. 2015. Dynamic changes in vegetation NDVI from 1982 to 2012 and its responses to climate change and human activities in Xinjiang, China. Chinese Journal of Applied Ecology, 26(12): 3567–3578. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  8. Dugdale R C, Wilkerson F P, Parker A E. 2016. The effect of clam grazing on phytoplankton spring blooms in the low-salinity zone of the San Francisco Estuary: a modelling approach. Ecological Modelling, 340: 1–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Eldridge D J, Poore A G B, Ruiz-Colmenero M, et al. 2016. Ecosystem structure, function, and composition in rangelands are negatively affected by livestock grazing. Ecological Applications, 26(4): 1273–1283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. FAO/IIASA/ISRIC/ISS-CAS/JRC, 2012. Harmonized World Soil Database (version 1.2). FAO and IIASA, Rome, Italy and Laxenburg, Austria.Google Scholar
  11. Gu A X, Fan Y M, Wu H Q, et al. 2010. Relationship between the number of three main microorganisms and the soil environment of degraded grassland on the north slope of the Tianshan Mountains. Acta Prataculturae Sinica, 19(2): 116–123. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  12. Guo S H, Yang G J, Li Q F, et al. 2015. Observation and estimation of the evapotranspiration of alpine meadow in the upper reaches of the Aksu River, Xinjiang. Journal of Glaciology and Geocryology, 37(1): 241–248. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  13. Guo T, Lohmann D, Ratzmann G, et al. 2016. Response of semi-arid savanna vegetation composition towards grazing along a precipitation gradient—The effect of including plant heterogeneity into an ecohydrological savanna model. Ecological Modelling, 325: 47–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Han Q F, Luo G P, Li C F, et al. 2013. Modeling grassland net primary productivity and water-use efficiency along an elevational gradient of the Northern Tianshan Mountains. Journal of Arid Land, 5(3): 354–365.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Han Q F, Luo G P, Li C F, et al. 2014. Modeling the grazing effect on dry grassland carbon cycling with Biome-BGC model. Ecological Complexity, 17: 149–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Han Q F, Luo G P, Li C F, et al. 2016. Simulated grazing effects on carbon emission in Central Asia. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 216: 203–214.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hijmans R J, Cameron S E, Parra J L, et al. 2005. Very high resolution interpolated climate surfaces for global land areas. International Journal of Climatology, 25(15): 1965–1978.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Huang X T, Luo G P, Lv N N. 2017. Spatio-temporal patterns of grassland evapotranspiration and water use efficiency in arid areas. Ecological Research, 32(4): 523–535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Irisarri J G N, Derner J D, Porensky L M, et al. 2016. Grazing intensity differentially regulates ANPP response to precipitation in North American semiarid grasslands. Ecological Applications, 26(5): 1370–1380.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Jiapaer G, Liang S L, Yi Q X, et al. 2015. Vegetation dynamics and responses to recent climate change in Xinjiang using leaf area index as an indicator. Ecological Indicators, 58: 64–76.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Jin J X. 2012. Xinjiang Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press, 401–460. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  22. Jung M, Vetter M, Herold M, et al. 2007. Uncertainties of modeling gross primary productivity over Europe: a systematic study on the effects of using different drivers and terrestrial biosphere models. Global Biogeochemical Cycles, 21(4): GB4021.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kerven C, Steimann B, Ashley L, et al. 2011. Pastoralism and Farming in Central Asia's Mountains: A Research Review. Bishkek: University of Central Asia.Google Scholar
  24. Laniak G F, Olchin G, Goodall J, et al. 2013. Integrated environmental modeling: a vision and roadmap for the future. Environmental Modelling & Software, 39: 3–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Leitinger G, Tasser E, Newesely C, et al. 2010. Seasonal dynamics of surface runoff in mountain grassland ecosystems differing in land use. Journal of Hydrology, 385(1–4): 95–104.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Li X Y, Wang Y G, Liu L J, et al. 2013. Effect of land use history and pattern on soil carbon storage in arid region of central Asia. PLoS ONE, 8(7): e68372.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Liu H, Zang R G, Chen H Y H. 2016. Effects of grazing on photosynthetic features and soil respiration of rangelands in the Tianshan Mountains of Northwest China. Scientific Reports, 6: 30087.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Liu L X, Zhao X Y, Chang X L, et al. 2016. Impact of precipitation fluctuation on desert-grassland ANPP. Sustainability, 8(12): 1245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Liu W B, Wang L, Zhou J, et al. 2016. A worldwide evaluation of basin-scale evapotranspiration estimates against the water balance method. Journal of Hydrology, 538: 82–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Long T, Xiong H G, Zhang J B, et al. 2010. Experimental study on grassland soil evaporation with different rainfall intensity. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation, 24(6): 240–245. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  31. Luo G P, Han Q F, Zhou D C, et al. 2012. Moderate grazing can promote aboveground primary production of grassland under water stress. Ecological Complexity, 11: 126–136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Mikola J, Setälä H, Virkajärvi P, et al. 2009. Defoliation and patchy nutrient return drive grazing effects on plant and soil properties in a dairy cow pasture. Ecological Monographs, 79(2): 221–244.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Neff J C, Reynolds R L, Belnap J, et al. 2005. Multi-decadal impacts of grazing on soil physical and biogeochemical properties in southeast Utah. Ecological Applications, 15(1): 87–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Nilsson P, Tuomi J, Astrom M. 1996. Even repeated grazing may select for overcompensation. Ecology, 77(6): 1942–1946.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Niu S L, Xing X R, Zhang Z, et al. 2011. Water-use efficiency in response to climate change: from leaf to ecosystem in a temperate steppe. Global Change Biology, 17(2): 1073–1082.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Olejniczak P. 2011. Overcompensation in response to simulated herbivory in the perennial herb Sedum maximum. Plant Ecology, 212(11): 1927–1935.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Orr R J, Murray P J, Eyles C J, et al. 2016. The North Wyke Farm Platform: effect of temperate grassland farming systems on soil moisture contents, runoff and associated water quality dynamics. European Journal of Soil Science, 67(4): 374–385.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Paige K N. 1992. Overcompensation in response to mammalian herbivory: from mutulastic to antagonistic interactions. Ecology, 73(6): 2076–2085.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Rong Y P, Yuan F, Ma L. 2014. Effectiveness of exclosures for restoring soils and vegetation degraded by overgrazing in the Junggar Basin, China. Grassland Science, 60(2): 118–124.Google Scholar
  40. Rótolo G C, Rydberg T, Lieblein G, et al. 2007. Emergy evaluation of grazing cattle in Argentina's Pampas. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 119(3–4): 383–395.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Running S W, Coughlan J C. 1988. A general model of forest ecosystem processes for regional applications I. Hydrologic balance, canopy gas exchange and primary production processes. Ecological Modelling, 42(2): 125–154.Google Scholar
  42. Seligman N G, Cavagnaro J B, Horno M E. 1992. Simulation of defoliation effects on primary production of a warm-season, semiarid perennial-species grassland. Ecological Modelling, 60(1): 45–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Su R N, Cheng J H, Chen D M, et al. 2017. Effects of grazing on spatiotemporal variations in community structure and ecosystem function on the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, China. Scientific Reports, 7(1): 40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Teague W R, Dowhower S L, Baker S A, et al. 2011. Grazing management impacts on vegetation, soil biota and soil chemical, physical and hydrological properties in tall grass prairie. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, 141(3–4): 310–322.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Verón S R, Paruelo J M, Oesterheld M. 2011. Grazing-induced losses of biodiversity affect the transpiration of an arid ecosystem. Oecologia, 165(2): 501–510.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Wang K B, Deng L, Ren Z P, et al. 2016a. Grazing exclusion significantly improves grassland ecosystem C and N pools in a desert steppe of Northwest China. Catena, 137: 441–448.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Wang L, Liu H Z, Bernhofer C. 2016b. Grazing intensity effects on the partitioning of evapotranspiration in the semiarid typical steppe ecosystems in Inner Mongolia. International Journal of Climatology, 36(12): 4130–4140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Wang Q X, Watanabe M, Ouyang Z. 2005. Simulation of water and carbon fluxes using BIOME-BGC model over crops in China. Agricultural and Forest Meteorology, 131(3–4): 209–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Wang Z, Deng X Z, Song W, et al. 2017. What is the main cause of grassland degradation? A case study of grassland ecosystem service in the middle-south Inner Mongolia. Catena, 150: 100–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Xie L N, Chen W Z, Gabler C A, et al. 2016. Effects of grazing intensity on seed production of Caragana stenophylla along a climatic aridity gradient in the Inner Mongolia Steppe, China. Journal of Arid Land, 8(6): 890–898.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Xu B, Yang X C, Jin Y X, et al. 2012. Monitoring and evaluation of grassland-livestock balance in pastoral and semi-pastoral counties of China. Geographical Research, 31(11): 1998–2006. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  52. Yan R H, Xiong H G, Feng Z H, et al. 2013. Relationship between evapotranspiration and multi-environmental factors of Achnatherum splendens grassland’s SPAC system in oasis-desert Ecotone. Arid Land Geography, 36(5): 889–896. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  53. Yan R H, Xiong H G, Chen X F. 2015. Characteristics of land surface energy over: Achnatherum splendens grassland in the oasisdesert ecotone of Northern Piedmont of Tianshan Mountains. Acta Ecologica Sinica, 35(5): 1350–1358. (in Chinese)Google Scholar
  54. Zhang J H, Huang Y M, Chen H Y, et al. 2016. Effects of grassland management on the community structure, aboveground biomass and stability of a temperate steppe in Inner Mongolia, China. Journal of Arid Land, 8(3): 422–433.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Zhang Y, Gao Q Z, Dong S K, et al. 2015. Effects of grazing and climate warming on plant diversity, productivity and living state in the alpine rangelands and cultivated grasslands of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. The Rangeland Journal, 37(1): 57–65.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Zhao L W, Zhao W Z. 2014. Evapotranspiration of an oasis-desert transition zone in the middle stream of Heihe River, Northwest China. Journal of Arid Land, 6(5): 529–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Zhao W Y, Li J L, Qi J G. 2007. Changes in vegetation diversity and structure in response to heavy grazing pressure in the Northern Tianshan Mountains, China. Journal of Arid Environments, 68(3): 465–479.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Zuo X A, Wang S K, Zhao X Y, et al. 2012. Effect of spatial scale and topography on spatial heterogeneity of soil seed banks under grazing disturbance in a sandy grassland of Horqin Sand Land, Northern China. Journal of Arid Land, 4(2): 151–160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography, the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xiaotao Huang
    • 1
    • 2
  • Geping Luo
    • 1
    Email author
  • Feipeng Ye
    • 3
  • Qifei Han
    • 4
  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  2. 2.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  3. 3.College of Resource and Environment SciencesXinjiang UniversityUrumqiChina
  4. 4.Nanjing University of Information Science & TechnologyNanjingChina

Personalised recommendations