• Long-term light grazing does not change soil organic carbon stability and stock in biocrust layer in the hilly regions of drylands

    分类: 生物学 >> 生态学 提交时间: 2023-08-15 合作期刊: 《干旱区科学》

    摘要: Livestock grazing is the most extensive land use in global drylands and one of the most extensive stressors of biological soil crusts (biocrusts). Despite widespread concern about the importance of biocrusts for global carbon (C) cycling, little is known about whether and how long-term grazing alters soil organic carbon (SOC) stability and stock in the biocrust layer. To assess the responses of SOC stability and stock in the biocrust layer to grazing, from June to September 2020, we carried out a large scale field survey in the restored grasslands under long-term grazing with different grazing intensities (represented by the number of goat dung per square meter) and in the grasslands strictly excluded from grazing in four regions (Dingbian County, Shenmu City, Guyuan City and Ansai District) along precipitation gradient in the hilly Loess Plateau, China. In total, 51 representative grassland sites were identified as the study sampling sites in this study, including 11 sites in Guyuan City, 16 sites in Dingbian County, 15 sites in Shenmu City and 9 sites in Ansai District. Combined with extensive laboratory analysis and statistical analysis, at each sampling site, we obtained data on biocrust attributes (cover, community structure, biomass and thickness), soil physical-chemical properties (soil porosity and soil carbon-to-nitrogen ratio (C/N ratio)), and environmental factors (mean annual precipitation, mean annual temperature, altitude, plant cover, litter cover, soil particle-size distribution (the ratio of soil clay and silt content to sand content)), SOC stability index (SI) and SOC stock (SOCS) in the biocrust layer, to conduct this study. Our results revealed that grazing did not change total biocrust cover but markedly altered biocrust community structure by reducing plant cover, with a considerable increase in the relative cover of cyanobacteria (23.1%) while a decrease in the relative cover of mosses (42.2%). Soil porosity and soil C/N ratio in the biocrust layer under grazing decreased significantly by 4.1%–7.2% and 7.2%–13.3%, respectively, compared with those under grazing exclusion. The shifted biocrust community structure ultimately resulted in an average reduction of 15.5% in SOCS in the biocrust layer under grazing. However, compared with higher grazing (intensity of more than 10.00 goat dung/m2), light grazing (intensity of 0.00–10.00 goat dung/m2 or approximately 1.20–2.60 goat/(hm2•a)) had no adverse effect on SOCS. SOC stability in the biocrust layer remained unchanged under long-term grazing due to the offset between the positive effect of the decreased soil porosity and the negative effect of the decreased soil C/N ratio on the SOC resistance to decomposition. Mean annual precipitation and soil particle-size distribution also regulated SOC stability indirectly by influencing soil porosity through plant cover and biocrust community structure. These findings suggest that proper grazing might not increase the CO2 release potential or adversely affect SOCS in the biocrust layer. This research provides some guidance for proper grazing management in the sustainable utilization of grassland resources and C sequestration in biocrusts in the hilly regions of drylands.