Deposition and decomposition of cattle dung and its impact on soil properties and plant growth in a cool-temperate pasture
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Livestock dung provides an important direct pathway by which carbon and nutrients enter soils in pasture ecosystems and affects carbon and nitrogen cycling indirectly through changes in soil and plant properties. Here, we quantify dung deposition, decomposition, and the effects of dung on soil and plants in a Zoysia japonica grassland in Japan. We determined (1) the distribution of dung, (2) the mass loss rate of dung and the amount of carbon respired as CO2, and (3) changes in soil properties and aboveground biomass of Z. japonica. Dung deposition was 4.0–9.7 g C and 0.4–1.0 g N m−2 year−1 and distributed patchily (Morishita’s I δ > 1). Most (71 %) of the carbon in dung deposited in June was lost within a single grazing period by aerobic decomposition, more than mass loss rate of Z. japonica litter in the first year (about 50 %), suggesting that grazing and defecation can accelerate carbon cycling compared with the typical litterfall–decomposition regime. Nitrogen in dung mass entered the soil as ammonium nitrogen and was nitrified. The spatiotemporal distribution of these processes corresponded to that of stimulated Z. japonica growth. These results suggested that dung deposition significantly affected the inorganic nitrogen status of soil and, therefore, the growth of Z. japonica. However, these effects were very restricted temporally (July–August) and spatially (within 10 cm from dung edge). Thus, such spatiotemporally restricted effects combined with the patchy distribution of dung may contribute to the heterogeneous structure of pasture ecosystems.
KeywordsCarbon and nitrogen cycling Dung decomposition Grassland Pasture Plant growth
We are grateful to Dr. Y. Yashiro for providing the data regarding methane and nitrous oxide emissions from dung masses. We thank Mr. K. Kurumado and Mr. Y. Miyamoto of the Takayama Experimental Field Station, Gifu University, Japan, for their great help and support at the station. We thank Takayama City for permitting us to use the Iwai municipal pasture. We also would like to thank two anonymous reviewers for their constructive comments. This study was partly supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science.
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