Effect of manipulating animal stocking rate on the carbon storage capacity in a degraded desert steppe
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Managing the stocking rate is considered one of the most important practices influencing carbon storage on rangeland. The effects of four stocking rates consisting of a non-grazed control (CK), light (0.15 sheep ha−1 month−1), moderate (0.30 sheep ha−1 month−1) and heavy (0.45 sheep ha−1 month−1) were evaluated for impacts on carbon storage taking place on the Desert Steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. Carbon storage was measure in aboveground vegetation, roots and soil in August of 2009, 2011 and 2013. Both aboveground biomass (AGB) and below-ground biomass (BGB) increased significantly as stocking rate decreased. Stocking rate also had a significant effect on both the aboveground and below-ground carbon storage in plant biomass, but had no effect on the soil carbon. Compared to the heavy stocking rate typically practiced by local herders, lower stocking rates increased the total above- and below-ground biomass carbon storage by ≥ 7%. Over the 3 year study, compared to the moderate stocking rate, the rate of carbon sequestration with a light stocking rate was 0.7 Mg C ha−1 year−1. Thus, reducing stocking rate has the potential to increase C sequestration and storage, as well as maintaining animal numbers at a more sustainable level suitable for the Desert Steppe ecosystem.
KeywordsCarbon sequestration Global change Range management Sheep grazing
This study was supported by Excellent Young Scientist Foundation of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University of China (2014XYQ-7), National Nature Science Foundation of China (31260124, 31560140, 31270502, 31760143), Key Laboratory of Grassland Resources Ministry of Education People’s Republic of China and Key Laboratory of Forage Cultivation, Processing and High Efficient Utilization of Ministry of Agriculture, Innovation Research Team of Ministry of Education (IRT17R59), also supported by West Light Foundation of Chinese Academy of Sciences. The authors are thankful for kindly checking English and the helpful suggestions provided by Walter D. Willms and Dean M. Anderson. The authors would like to thank all students of IMAU for their efforts in collecting and analyzing field samples and all staff members of Siziwang Grassland Research Station for their help in our study, and very grateful to the anonymous referees for their valuable comments on the manuscript.
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