Grazing every month minimizes size but boosts photosynthesis in Stipa grandis in the steppe of Inner Mongolia, China

Abstract

In order to explore the effects of grazing frequency on functional traits and to test whether Stipa gandis has compensatory photosynthesis during the frequent grazing period, we investigated morphological traits, biomass allocation, photosynthetic traits, and chlorophyll fluorescence parameters of the species in Inner Mongolia, China. The grazing frequency treatments included fencing (T0), grazing in May and July (T1, i.e., two months per year) and grazing from May to September (T2, i.e., continuous five months per year). Results indicate that T1 and T2 treatments did not affect individual biomass, but T2 treatment negatively affected individual size, i.e., plant height, stem length, and leaf length. Physiological traits of S. grandis were significantly affected by grazing, year, and their interaction. In July 2014 (i.e., dry environment and low relative humidity), the photosynthetic rate, transpiration rate and water use efficiency were highest under T2 treatment, which was caused by the increase in stomatal conductance. However, in July 2015 (i.e., wet environment and high relative humidity), the photosynthetic rate and water use efficiency were higher under T1 and T2 treatments, which were caused by the increase in actual quantum efficiency and stomatal conductance. Our results implied that under frequent grazing treatment, S. grandis had small height and efficient compensatory photosynthesis, which promoted its resistance to severe grazing.

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Acknowledgements

This work was funded by the National Basic Research Program of China (2016YFC0500502), the National Key Basic Research Program of China (2014CB138803), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31570451), and the Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovative Research Team in University (IRT_15R06). We thank the Grassland Ecosystem Field Station of Inner Mongolia University for offering the grazing site and BAOYIN Taogetao for advices on early experimental design.

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Correspondence to Xiaobing Li.

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Li, X., Huang, Q., Mi, X. et al. Grazing every month minimizes size but boosts photosynthesis in Stipa grandis in the steppe of Inner Mongolia, China. J. Arid Land 10, 601–611 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-018-0011-4

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Keywords

  • grazing frequency
  • morphological traits
  • gas exchange
  • photochemical efficiency
  • water use efficiency