Journal of Mountain Science

, Volume 12, Issue 3, pp 582–591 | Cite as

Effects of grassland degradation and re-vegetation on carbon and nitrogen storage in the soils of the Headwater Area Nature Reserve on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, China

  • Xu-kun Su
  • Yu Wu
  • Shi-kui DongEmail author
  • Lu Wen
  • Yuan-yuan Li
  • Xue-xia Wang


Both overgrazing and climate change contribute to grassland degradation in the alpine regions of China and negatively affect soil carbon and nitrogen pools. We quantified changes in soil organic carbon (SOC) and total nitrogen (TN) in black soil beach (BSB). We measured SOC and TN in severely degraded and non-degraded grasslands to calculate differences in carbon and nitrogen storage, and field survey results were extrapolated to the entire headwaters area of the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (36.3×105 km2) to determine SOC and TN losses from these grasslands. We also evaluated changes in SOC and TN in severely degraded grasslands that were artificially re-vegetated five, seven and nine years ago. Totally 92.43 Tg C and 7.08 Tg N were lost from the BSB in the headwater area, which was approximately 50% of the original C and N soil pools. Re-vegetation of the degraded grasslands in the headwater area would result in a gain of 32.71 Tg C in the soil after five years, a loss of 5.52 Tg C after seven years and an increase of 44.15 Tg C after nine years. The TN increased by 53.09% and 59.98% after five and nine years, respectively, while it decreased by 4.92% after seven years of re-vegetation. The results indicate that C and N stocks followed a “V” shaped pattern with re-vegetation time. Understanding plant-soil interactions during succession of artificially planting grassland ecosystems is essential for developing scientifically sound management strategies for the effectively re-vegetated BSB.


Black soil beach Grassland degradation Soil loss Revegetation Alpine grasslands Soil carbon sequestration Soil nitrogen sequestration 


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Copyright information

© Science Press, Institute of Mountain Hazards and Environment, CAS and Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Xu-kun Su
    • 1
  • Yu Wu
    • 1
  • Shi-kui Dong
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lu Wen
    • 1
  • Yuan-yuan Li
    • 1
  • Xue-xia Wang
    • 1
  1. 1.School of EnvironmentBeijing Normal UniversityBeijingChina

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