Climatic Change

, Volume 63, Issue 3, pp 351–368 | Cite as

Vulnerability of the Asian Typical Steppe to Grazing and Climate Change

  • Lindsey Christensen
  • Michael B. Coughenour
  • James E. Ellis
  • Zuo Zhong Chen


The vulnerability of grassland vegetation in Inner Mongolia to climate change and grazing was examined using an ecosystem model. Grazing is an important form of land use in this region, yet there are uncertainties as to how it will be affected by climate change. A sensitivity analysis was conducted to study the effects of increased minimum and maximum temperatures, ambient and elevated CO2, increased or decreased precipitation, and grazing on vegetation production. Simulations showed that herbaceous above ground net primary production was most sensitive to changes in precipitation levels. Combinations of increased precipitation, temperature, and CO2 had synergistic effects on herbaceous production, however drastic increases in these climate scenarios left the system vulnerable to shifts from herbaceous to shrub-dominated vegetation when grazed. Reduced precipitation had a negative effect on vegetation growth rates, thus herbaceous growth was not sustainable with moderate grazing. Shifts in temporal biomass patterns due to changed climate have potentially significant implications for grazing management, which will need to be altered under changing climate to maintain system stability.


Precipitation Climate Scenario Ecosystem Model Typical Steppe Vegetation Production 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Allen-Diaz, B.: 1996, 'Rangelands in a Changing Climate: Impacts, Adaptations, and Mitigation', in Watson, R. T., Zinyowera, M. C., Moss, R. H., and Dokken, D. J. (eds.), Climate Change 1995Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 130–158.Google Scholar
  2. Alward, R. D., Detling, J. K., and Milchunas, D. G.: 1999, 'Grassland Vegetation Changes and Nocturnal Global Warming', Science 283, 229–231.Google Scholar
  3. Archer, S.: 1996, 'Assessing and Interpreting Grass-Woody Plant Dynamics', in Hodgson, J. and Illius, A. W. (eds.), The Ecology and Management of Grazing Systems, CAB International, Oxford, pp. 101–134.Google Scholar
  4. Archer, S., Schimel, D., and Holland, E.: 1995, 'Mechanisms for Shrubland Expansion: Land Use, Climate or CO2', Clim. Change 29, 91–99.Google Scholar
  5. Baker, B. B., Hanson, J. D., Bourdon, R. M., and Eckert, J. B.: 1993, 'The Potential Effects of Climate Change on Ecosystem Processes and Cattle Production on U.S. Rangelands', Clim. Change 25, 97–117.Google Scholar
  6. Ball, J. T.: 1988, An Analysis of Stomatal Conductance, Doctor of Biological Sciences Thesis Dissertation, Stanford University, Stanford.Google Scholar
  7. Boone, R. B., Coughenour, M. B., Galvin, K. A., and Ellis, J. E.: 2001, 'Using the SAVANNA Modeling System to Address Potential Management Questions in Ngorongoro, Tanzania and Kajiado, Kenya', in Boone, R. B. and Coughenour, M. B. (eds.), A System for Integrated Management and Assessment of East African Pastoral Lands: Balancing Food Security, Wildlife Conservation, and Ecosystem Integrity, Report to the Global Livestock Collaborative Research Support Program, University of California, Davis, CA, U.S.A., pp. 73–104.Google Scholar
  8. Boone, R. B., Coughenour, M. B., Galvin, K. A., and Ellis, J. E.: 2002, 'Addressing Management Questions for Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Tanzania', African Journal of Ecology, in press.Google Scholar
  9. Brown, J. R., Scanla, J. C., and McIvor, J. G.: 1998, 'Competition by Herbs as a Limiting Factor in Shrub Invasion in Grassland: A Test with Different Growth Forms', J. Vegetation Science 9, 829–836.Google Scholar
  10. Christensen, L., Coughenour, M. B., Ellis, J. E., and Chen, Z.: 2003, 'Sustainability of Inner Mongolian Grasslands: Application of the Savanna Model', J. Range Manage. 56, 319–337.Google Scholar
  11. Christensen, L., Coughenour, M. B., Ellis, J., Li, L., and Han, Y.: 1998, 'Grazing Effects on the Typical Steppe Grassland of Inner Mongolia', Proceedings of the LUTEA Conference, Beijing, China.Google Scholar
  12. Coughenour, M. B.: 1993, SAVANNA-Landscape and Regional Ecosystem Model, User Manuel, Colorado State University, Ft. Collins, CO, U.S.A.Google Scholar
  13. Coughenour, M. B. and Chen, D. X.: 1997, 'Assessment of Grassland Ecosystem Responses to Atmospheric Change Using Linked Plant-Soil Process Models', Ecol. Appl. 7, 802–827.Google Scholar
  14. Coughenour, M. B. and Parton, W. J.: 1997, 'Integrated Models of Ecosystem Function: A Grassland Case Study', in Walker, B. and Steffen, W. (eds.), Global Change and Terrestrial Ecosystems, International Geosphere-Biosphere Programme Book Series, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 93–114.Google Scholar
  15. Coughenour, M. B. and Singer, F. J.: 1996a, 'Yellowstone Elk Population Responses to Fire — A Comparison of Landscape Capacity and Spatial-Dynamic Ecosystem Modeling Approaches', in Greenlee, J. (ed.), The Ecological Implications of Fire in Greater Yellowstone: Proceedings of the Second Biennial Conference on the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, Yellowstone National Park, September 19-21, 1993, International Association of Wildland Fire, Fairfield, WA, pp. 169–180.Google Scholar
  16. Coughenour, M. B. and Singer, F. J.: 1996b, 'Elk Population Processes in Yellowstone National Park under the Policy of Natural Regulation', Ecol. Appl. 6, 573–593.Google Scholar
  17. Diaz, S., Fraser, L. H., Grime, J. P., and Falczuk, V.: 1998, 'The Impact of Elevated CO2 on Plant-Herbivore Interactions: Experimental Evidence of Moderating Effects at the Community Level', Oecologia 117, 177–186.Google Scholar
  18. Fu, C. and Wen, G.: 1999, 'Variation of Ecosystems over East Asia in Association with Seasonal, Interannual and Decadal Monsoon Climate Variability', Clim. Change 43, 477–494.Google Scholar
  19. Gao, Q. and Yu, M.: 1998, 'A Model of Regional Vegetation Dynamics and its Application to the Study of Northeast China Transect (NECT) Responses to Global Change', Global Biogeochem. Cycles 12, 329–344.Google Scholar
  20. Gao, Z. and Zhang, X.: 1997, 'A Simulation Study of Responses of the Northeast China Transect to Elevated CO2 and Climate Change', Ecological Applications 7, 470–483.Google Scholar
  21. Giorgi, F., Meehl, G. A., Kattenberg, A., Grassl, H., Mitchell, J. F. B., Stouffer, Tokioka, T., Weaver, A. J., and Wigley, T. M. L.: 1998, 'Simulation of Regional Climate Change with Global Coupled ClimateModels and Regional Modelling Techniques', in Watson, R. T., Zinyowera, M. C., Moss, R. H., and Dokken, D. J. (eds.), The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability, Cambridge University Press, New York, pp. 427–437.Google Scholar
  22. Hall, W. B., McKeon, G. M., Carter, J. O., Day, K. A., Howden, S.M., Scanlan, J. D., Johnston, P.W., and Burrows, W. H.: 1998, 'Climate Change in Queensland's Grazing Lands: II. An Assessment on the Impact on Animal Production from Native Pastures', Rangeland Journal 20, 177–205.Google Scholar
  23. Hanson, J. D., Skiles, J. W., and Parton, W. J.: 1988, 'A Multi-Species Model for Rangeland Plant Communities', Ecol. Modelling 44, 89–123.Google Scholar
  24. Hunt, H. W., Trlica, M. J., Redente, E. F., Moore, J. E., Detling, J. K., Kittel, T. G. F., Walter, D. E., Fowler, M. C., Klein, D. A., and Elliott, E. T.: 1991, 'SimulationModel for the Effects of Climate Change on Temperate Grassland Ecosystems', Ecol. Modelling 53, 205–246.Google Scholar
  25. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC): 1996, Climate Change 1995: The Science of Climate Change. The Second IPCC Scientific Assessment, Houghton, J. T., Meira Filho, L. G., Callendar, B. A., Harris, N., Kattenberg, A., and Maskell, K. (eds.), Cambridge University Press, N.Y., 572 pp.Google Scholar
  26. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Chage (IPCC): 2001, Climate Change 2001: The Scientific Basis. Contribution of Working Group 1 to Third Assessment Report of the IPCC, Houghton, J. and Ding, Y. (chairs), Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 881 pp.Google Scholar
  27. Jackson, R. B., Sala, O. E., Field, E. B., and Mooney, H. A.: 1994, 'CO2 Alters Water Use, Carbon Gain, and Yield for the Dominant Species in a Natural Grassland', Oecologia 98, 257–262.Google Scholar
  28. Jackson, R. B., Sala, O. E., Paruelo, J. M., and Mooney, H. A.: 1998, 'Ecosystem Water Fluxes for Two Grasslands in Elevated CO2; A Modeling Analysis', Oecologia 113, 537–546.Google Scholar
  29. Justice, C. O., Townshend, J. R. G., Holben, B. N., and Tucker, C. J.: 1985, 'Analysis of the Phenology of Global Vegetation Using Meteorological Satellite Data', Int. J. Remote Sensing 6, 1271–1318.Google Scholar
  30. Karl, T. R., Jones, P. D., Knight, R. W., Kukla, G., Plummer, N., Razuvayev, V., Gallo, K. P., Lindseay, J., Charlson, R. J., and Peterson, T. C.: 1993, 'Asymmetric Trends of Daily Maximum and Minimum Temperature', Bull. Amer. Meteorol. Soc. 74, 1007–1023.Google Scholar
  31. Keeling, C. D., Whorf, T. P., Wahlen, M., and van der Plicht, J.: 1995, 'Interannual Extremes in the Rate of Rise of Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide since 1980', Nature 375, 666–670.Google Scholar
  32. Kiker, G. A.: 1998, Development and Comparison of Savanna Ecosystem Models to Explore the Concept of Carrying Capacity, Thesis Dissertation No. DAI, 59, No. 07B: 3569, Cornell University, Ithica, New York, 390 pp.Google Scholar
  33. Knapp, A. K., Hamerlynck, E. P., Ham, J. M., and Owensby, C. E.: 1996, 'Responses in Stomatal Conductance to Elevated CO2 in 12 Grassland Species that Differ in Growth Form', Vegetatio 125, 31–41.Google Scholar
  34. Köchy, M. and Wilson, S. D.: 2000, 'Competitive Effects of Shrubs and Grasses in Prairie', OIKOS 91, 385–395.Google Scholar
  35. Lavrenko, E. M. and Karamysheva, Z. V.: 1993, 'Steppes of the Former Soviet Union and Mongolia', in Coupland, R. T. (ed.), Ecosystems of the World. Natural Grasslands: Eastern Hemisphere and Resume, Elsevier, New York, pp. 3–59.Google Scholar
  36. Li, J. D.: 1978, 'Aneurolepidium chinense Grassland in China', J. Northeast Normal University 1, 145–159.Google Scholar
  37. Li, Y. H.: 1989, 'Impact of Grazing on Aneurolepidium Chinense Steppe and Stipa Grandis Steppe', Acta Oecologica 10, 31–46.Google Scholar
  38. Ludwig, J. A., Coughenour, M. B., Liedloff, A. C., and Dyer, R.: 2001, 'Modelling the Resilience of Australian Savanna Systems to Grazing Impacts', Environment International 27, 167–172.Google Scholar
  39. Malingreau, J. P.: 1986, 'Global Vegetation Dynamics: Satellite Observations over Asia', Int. J. Remote Sensing 7, 1121–1146.Google Scholar
  40. Monteith, J. L.: 1965, 'Evaporation and Environment', Symposia of the Society for Experimental Biology 19, 205–234.Google Scholar
  41. Neilson, R. P., Prentice, I. C., Smith, B., Kittel, T., and Viner. D.: 1998, 'Simulated Changes in Vegetation Distribution under Global Arming', in Watson, R. T., Zinyoweie, M. C., and Moss, R. H. (eds.), The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability, Cambridge University Press, N.Y., pp. 439–456.Google Scholar
  42. Newton, P. C. D., Clark, H., Bell, C. C., Glasgow, E. M., Tate, K. R., Ross, D. J., Yeates, G. W., and Saggar, S.: 1995, 'Plant Growth and Soil Processes in Temperate Grassland Communities at Elevated CO2', J. Biogeogr. 22, 235–240.Google Scholar
  43. Nosberger, J., Blum, H., and Fuhrer, J.: 2000, 'Crop Ecosystem Responses to Climatic Change: Productive Grasslands', in Reddy, K. R. and Hodges, H. F. (eds.), Climate Change and Global Crop Productivity, CABI Publishing, N.Y., pp. 271–291.Google Scholar
  44. Panario, D. and Bidegain, M.: 1997, 'Climate Change Effects on Grasslands in Uruguay', Clim. Res. 9, 37–40.Google Scholar
  45. Parsons, D. J., Armstrong, A. C., Turnpenny, J. R., Matthews, A. M., Cooper, K., and Clark, J. A.: 2001, 'Integrated Models of Livestock Systems for Climate Change Studies. 1. Grazing Systems', Global Change Biology 7, 93–112.Google Scholar
  46. Parton, W. J., Schimel, D. S., Cole, C. V., and Ojima, D. S.: 1987, 'Analysis of Factors Controlling Soil Organic Matter Levels in Great Plains Grasslands', Soil Science Society of America Journal 51, 1173–1197.Google Scholar
  47. Parton, W. J., Scurlock, J. M. O., Ojima, D. S., Schimel, D. S., Hall, D. O., and S. G. members: 1995, 'Impact of Climate Change on Grassland Production and Soil Carbon Worldwide', Global Change Biology 1, 13–22.Google Scholar
  48. Penman, H. L.: 1953, 'The Physical Basis of Irrigation Control', Report of the 13th International Horticultural Congress 2, 913–914.Google Scholar
  49. Polley, H. W., Morgan, J. A., Cambell, B. D., and Smith, M. S.: 2000, 'Crop Ecosystem Responses to Climatic Change: Rangelands', in Reddy, K. R. and Hodges, H. F. (eds.), Climate Change and Global Crop Productivity, CAB International, N.Y., pp. 293–314.Google Scholar
  50. Riedo, M., Gyalistras, D., and Fuhrer, J.: 2000, 'Net Primary Production and Carbon Stocks in Differently Managed Grasslands: Simulation of Site-Specific Sensitivity to an Increase in Atmospheric CO2 and to Climate Change', Ecol. Modelling 134, 207–227.Google Scholar
  51. Riedo, M., Gyalistras, D., Grub, A., Rosset, M., and Fuhrer, J.: 1997, 'Modelling Grassland Responses to Climate Change and Elevated CO2', Acta Oecologica 18, 305–311.Google Scholar
  52. Rietkerk, M. and van de Koppel, J.: 1997, 'Alternate Stable States and Threshold Effects in Semi-Arid Grazing Systems', OIKOS 79, 69–76.Google Scholar
  53. Smit, B. and Yunlong, C.: 1996, 'Climate Change and Agriculture in China', Global Environ. Change 6, 205–214.Google Scholar
  54. Thornley, J. H.M. and Cannell, M. G. R.: 1997, 'Temperate Grassland Responses to Climate Change: An Analysis Using the Hurley Pasture Model', Ann. Botany 80, 205–221.Google Scholar
  55. Thornley, H. M. and Verberne, E. L. J.: 1989, 'A Model of Nitrogen Flows in Grassland', Plant Cell Environ. 12, 863–886.Google Scholar
  56. Tucker, C. J.: 1979, 'Red and Photographic Infrared Linear Combinations for Monitoring Vegetation', Rem. Sens. Env. 8, 127–150.Google Scholar
  57. Wand, S. J. E., Midgley, G. F., Jones, M. H., and Curtis, P. S.: 1999, 'Responses of Wild C4 and C3 Grass (Poaceae) Species to Elevated Atmospheric CO2 Concentration: A Meta-Analytic Test of Current Theories and Perceptions', Global Change Biology 5, 723–741.Google Scholar
  58. Watson, R., Noble, I., Bolin, B., Ravindranath, N. H., Verardo, D. J., and Dokken, D. J.: 2000, IPCC Special Report on Land Use, Land-Use Change, and Forestry, Cambride University Press, Cambridge, 377 pp.Google Scholar
  59. Watson, R. T., Zinyowera, M. C., Moss, R. H., and Dokken, D. J.: 1996, 'Climate Change 1995 — Impacts, Adaptations and Mitigation of Climate Change: Scientific-Technical Analyses', Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 878 pp.Google Scholar
  60. Weisberg, P. J. and Coughenour, M. B.: 2003, 'Model-Based Assessment of Aspen Responses to Elk Herbivory in Rocky Mountain National Park, U.S.A.', J. Environ. Manage. 32, 152–169.Google Scholar
  61. Xiao, X., Ojima, D. S., and Ennis, C. A.: 1997, 'Land Cover Classification of the Xilin River Basin, Inner Mongolia, Using Landsat TM imagery', Research on Grassland Ecosystems 5, 240–252.Google Scholar
  62. Xiao, X., Shu, J., Yifeng, W., Ojima, D. S., and Bonham, C. D.: 1996, 'Temporal Variation in above Ground Biomass of Leymus chinense Steppe from Species to Community Levels in the Xilin River Basin, Inner Mongolia, China', Vegetatio 123, 1–12.Google Scholar
  63. Yang, H. (ed.): 1987, Proceedings of the International Symposium on Grassland Vegetation, Science Press, Hohhot, China, 629 pp.Google Scholar
  64. Zhai, P., Sun, A., Ren, R., Liu, X., Gao, B., and Zhang, Q.: 1999, 'Changes of Climate Extremes in China', Clim. Change 42, 203–218.Google Scholar
  65. Zhu, T. C.: 1993, 'Grasslands of China', in Coupland, R. T. (ed.), Ecosystems of the World. Natural Grasslands: Eastern Hemisphere and Resume, Elsevier, N.Y., pp. 61–82.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Christensen
    • 1
  • Michael B. Coughenour
    • 2
  • James E. Ellis
    • 2
  • Zuo Zhong Chen
    • 3
  1. 1.Center for Environmental Science and PolicyStanford UniversityStanfordU.S.A.
  2. 2.Natural Resource Ecology LaboratoryColorado State UniversityFort CollinsU.S.A.
  3. 3.Ecology Research Center, Institute of BotanyChinese Academy of ScienceBeijingChina

Personalised recommendations