J Integr Plant Biol. ›› 2004, Vol. 46 ›› Issue (9): 1032-1039.

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Effects of Simulated Grazing Pattern and Nitrogen Supply on Plant Growth in a Semiarid Region of Northern China

YUAN Zhi-You, LI Ling-Hao, HAN Xing-Guo, JIANG Feng-He, LIN Guo-Hui, ZHAO Ming-Xu, REN Li-Yun   


Grazing in grassland ecosystems affects plant growth by removing biomass and depositing excretal nutrients. However, grazing is not uniformly distributed in space. The spatial pattern of defoliation and excretion deposition by herbivores across vegetation mosaics has been frequently discussed, but rarely spatially quantified. A 60-day field experiment in a native semiarid grassland community was conducted to examine the responses of plant growth to simulated grazing pattern and varying nitrogen levels. Plants were subjected to five defoliation treatments determined by circularly clipped patches of different size (0, 10, 20, 40, 80 cm in radius), and four nitrogen supply levels in soils (0, 5, 10, 20 g N/m2). It was detected that defoliation had reduced primary productivity by 41.5% whereas fertilization had increased it by 57.8%. The negative effect of defoliation was greater in the smallest, fertilized patches. N addition had been found to have altered the effect of defoliation, as plants growing at higher nitrogen levels were more negatively affected by defoliation than plants with no supplementary application of nitrogen. These results indicated that the magnitude of defoliation response for an individual plant was modulated by not only defoliation itself, but also other factors, such as nutrient availability. The increase in the ratio of live to dead plant parts suggested that urine deposition delayed the senescence of plants. The results also showed that (1) the effect of defoliation on primary productivity was affected by the patch size, and (2) nitrogen addition (simulated urine deposition) could increase primary productivity and affect the response to defoliation more obviously in the smaller patches than in the larger ones.

Key words: simulated defoliation, nitrogen fertilization, grazing patch, relative growth rate

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