Chin J Plan Ecolo ›› 2014, Vol. 38 ›› Issue (2): 178-187.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1258.2014.00016

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of grazing intensity and topography on species abundance distribution in a typical steppe of Inner Mongolia

LI Wen-Huai1,2, ZHENG Shu-Xia1,3, and BAI Yong-Fei1*   

  1. 1State Key Laboratory of Vegetation and Environmental Change, Institute of Botany, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100093, China;

    2College of Life Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China;

    3State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau, Institute of Water and Soil Conservation, Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Water Resources, Yangling, Shaanxi 712100, China
  • Received:2013-05-20 Revised:2013-10-25 Online:2014-02-12 Published:2014-02-01
  • Contact: BAI Yong-Fei


Aims Our objective is to determine: 1) how species richness and abundance vary with grazing intensity and topography (i.e., flat vs. slope) in typical steppe of Inner Mongolia grassland, and 2) how common and rare species respond to grazing intensity and what role they play in species diversity maintenance.
Methods The study was carried out at the Sino-German grazing experiment site, which was established in June 2004, and located in the typical steppe region of Inner Mongolia grassland dominated by Leymus chinensis and Stipa grandis. The experimental treatments included seven levels of stocking rates (i.e., 0, 1.5, 3.0, 4.5, 6.0, 7.5, 9.0 sheep·hm–2) and two topographical systems (i.e., flat and slope). Three hundred quadrats (1 m × 1 m each) were investigated on each plot in August 2009, and the total number of species and the number of individuals for each species were measured within each quadrat. The log-normal model, log-series model, and power fraction model were used to fit the observational data.
Important findings Our results showed that the species richness and abundance increased at low stocking rates (1.5, 3.0 sheep·hm–2), but decreased at high stocking rates (7.5, 9.0 sheep·hm–2) on the flat, which partially supported the grazing optimization hypothesis. The power fraction model well fitted for entire species abundance at most of stocking rates, while the log-normal model only fitted well for entire species abundance just at the high stocking rates. The species richness and abundance decreased greatly with stocking rates on slopes. Abundance distribution of entire species at each of the stocking rates followed the log-normal function and power fraction function. The groups of common species and the entire species had similar responses in abundance to grazing at each of the stocking rates on both the flat and the slope, which were well fitted by both the power fraction model and log-normal model; whereas the groups of rare species and the entire species had similar richness responses to grazing at each of the stocking rates under both topographical features, which were well fitted by the power fraction model. It is suggested that the effect of grazing on species abundance in plant community depends on common species; whilst grazing effect on species richness depends on rare species. Our findings indicate that the niche partitioning mechanism plays an important role in species abundance maintenance in grassland ecosystems. To restore and maintain a high level of biodiversity and primary productivity in the Inner Mongolia grassland, it is necessary to reduce the excessively high stocking rate at present to a moderate level in future.

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