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Yak and Tibetan sheep trampling inhibit reproductive and photosynthetic traits of Medicago ruthenica var. inschanica

  • Hong Xiao
  • Zhen Peng
  • Chang Lin Xu
  • De Gang Zhang
  • Jin Long Chai
  • Tao Tao Pan
  • Xiao Jun Yu
Article

Abstract

Livestock grazing affects grassland stability, resilience, and productivity owing to trampling, foraging, and excretion. Over time, trampling influences a wide range of grassland components and can have lasting effects. Trampling helps maintain grassland health but may also cause its degradation. In a field experiment over two growing seasons, we simulated yak and sheep trampling at different intensities and investigated their effects on the reproductive and photosynthetic characteristics of Medicago ruthenica var. inschanica in a Tianzhu alpine meadow in Gansu Province, China. Our results show that simulated trampling inhibited the asexual and sexual reproduction and growth of M. ruthenica. The root surface area, root volume, root biomass, pod length, pod number per unit area, number of seeds per pod, thousand-seed weight, and seed yield were significantly reduced under simulated trampling in the upper 30 cm of soil (P < 0.05) but were not reduced in the deeper soil layers (> 30 cm). Light trampling by both yak and Tibetan sheep promoted photosynthesis, while heavy trampling by both species inhibited photosynthesis. Yak trampling inhibited photosynthesis more than Tibetan sheep trampling, and overall, the adverse effects of yak trampling on asexual and sexual reproduction and growth of M. ruthenica were greater than those of Tibetan sheep trampling. Thus, the effect of yak trampling is greater than the effect of trampling by Tibetan sheep, where the different trampling intensities of yak and Tibetan sheep can result in direct but varied influences on grasslands, potentially leading to grassland differentiation.

Keywords

Qinghai Tibet plateau Alpine meadow Simulated trampling Vegetative reproduction Sexual reproduction Photosynthetic trait Seed yield 

Notes

Funding

This research was funded by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 31360570 and 31760695).

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hong Xiao
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Zhen Peng
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Chang Lin Xu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • De Gang Zhang
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Jin Long Chai
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Tao Tao Pan
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Xiao Jun Yu
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  1. 1.College of Grassland ScienceGansu Agricultural UniversityLanzhouChina
  2. 2.Key Laboratory of Grassland EcosystemMinistry of EducationLanzhouChina
  3. 3.Sino-U.S. Center for Grassland Ecosystem SustainabilityLanzhouChina

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