Rapid loss of leguminous species in the semi-arid grasslands of northern China under climate change and mowing from 1982 to 2011

Abstract

Effects of mowing on the composition and diversity of grasslands varied with climate change (e.g., precipitation and temperature). However, the interactive effects of long-term mowing and climate change on the diversity and stability of leguminous and non-leguminous species in the semi-arid grasslands are largely unknown. Here, we used in situ monitoring data from 1982 to 2011 to examine the effects of continuous mowing and climate change on the plant biomass and diversity of leguminous and non-leguminous species, and soil total nitrogen in the typical semi-arid grasslands of northern China. Results showed that the biomass and diversity of leguminous species significantly decreased with the increasing in the biomass and diversity of non-leguminous species during the 30-a period. Variations in biomass were mainly affected by the long-term mowing, while variations in diversity were mainly explained by the climate change. Moreover, the normalized change rates of diversity in leguminous species were significantly higher than those in non-leguminous species. Mowing and temperature together contributed to the diversity changes of leguminous species, with mowing accounting for 50.0% and temperature 28.0%. Temporal stability of leguminous species was substantially lower than that of non-leguminous species. Consequently, soil total nitrogen decreased in the 2000s compared with the 1980s. These findings demonstrated that leguminous species were more sensitive to the long-term mowing and climate change than non-leguminous species in the semi-arid grasslands. Thus, reseeding appropriate leguminous plants when mowing in the semi-arid grasslands may be a better strategy to improve nitrogen levels of grassland ecosystems and maintain ecosystem biodiversity.

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Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (2016YFC0500604), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (31860681), the China Agriculture Research System (CARS-34), and the Natural Science Foundation of Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, China (2017MS0317).

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Correspondence to Zhiying Liu.

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Xu, B., Hugjiltu, M., Baoyin, T. et al. Rapid loss of leguminous species in the semi-arid grasslands of northern China under climate change and mowing from 1982 to 2011. J. Arid Land 12, 752–765 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40333-020-0022-9

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Keywords

  • mowing
  • community succession
  • climate change
  • legume
  • temporal stability
  • diversity
  • productivity