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The Rangeland Journal Abstracts

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The following abstracts are from the latest issues of The Rangeland Journal.

The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (2) - May 2019


Impact of agrarian practices and some pastoral uses on vegetation in Algerian steppe rangelands

R. F. Hammouda A , J. Huguenin B C , L. Julien B and D. Nedjraoui A

- Author Affiliations

A Laboratory of Plant Ecology and Environment (LEVE), Faculty of Biological Sciences, University of Sciences and Technology Houari Boumediene, BP 32 El Alia, Bab Ezzouar, Algiers 1611, Algeria.

B CIRAD, UMR SELMET, F-34398 Montpellier, France. SELMET, Univ Montpellier, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro, Montpellier, France.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 97-107
Submitted: 3 August 2018  Accepted: 8 April 2019   Published: 8 May 2019


The decline in steppe vegetation in Algeria was first reported in the mid-20th century, and for many years was attributed to recurrent droughts. Hypotheses suggesting that this decline was a consequence of human activities emerged in the 1970s – a time of major socioeconomic trends in the region. Changes such as strong population growth, sedentarisation, herd size increases and use of pasture land for crops, all had considerable impact on rangeland vegetation. The aim of the present work was to identify heterogeneity in the pasture vegetation of a given ‘territory’ (in the sense of a ‘terroir’), or biophysical environment (including meteorological), taking into account rangeland distribution, land use changes and herd management in the Aflou region of Algeria. Characterisation and mapping of the vegetation and its environment in the study area led to the hypothesis that, apart from some very slight soil differences, heterogeneity in rangeland vegetation appeared mainly related to human impacts. Bertin’s Semiology of Graphics was used to analyse the results, and indicated a major decline in vegetation productivity and biodiversity in the steppe rangelands of the study zone. Beyond this general trend in the municipal territory studied, areas were found with contrasting flora communities, with some showing relatively stable plant communities, while other areas had some plant communities that had undergone regressive succession. Grazing conditions and the proximity of ploughed land were responsible for these different vegetation situations.

Additional keywords: drylands, grazing pressure, herd management, land access, pastoral map, regressive succession, vegetation dynamics, vegetation map.



Landscape research in Ethiopia: misunderstood or lost synergy?

Zbelo Tesfamariam A B F , Jan Nyssen A , Jean Poesen E , Tesfaalem Ghebreyohannes B , Kelemework Tafere C , Amanuel Zenebe D , Seppe Deckers E and Veerle Van Eetvelde A

+ Author Affiliations

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 109-124
Submitted: 14 May 2018  Accepted: 18 January 2019   Published: 21 March 2019


A full understanding of the concept of landscape plays a paramount role in sustainable management of natural resources and an increase of landscape studies. However, little is known about the concept of landscape, landscape research and its application in Ethiopia. Hence, the overall objective of this paper is to explore the concept of landscape and review available literatures on landscape research in Ethiopia and to identify research gaps. A questionnaire (n = 30) was administered to explore the concept of landscape. A systematic review of available studies on landscape and related concepts has also been made. Out of the 398 papers in which the terms ‘landscape’ and ‘Ethiopia’ appeared in the title, keywords or abstract, 26 papers, having 10 or more keywords related to landscape research were included in this in-depth review. An exploratory study of art and media has been made to examine the perception of artists on landscapes. The results of the study show that the perception of Ethiopian artists on landscape is highly associated with concept of the landscape.

The findings of the survey also reveal that the meaning of the term landscape differs semantically. The findings of the review also indicate that landscape studies carried out in Ethiopia do not fully cover the holistic concept of landscape; as they mostly focus more on physical features of the landscape. Moreover, the interdisciplinary approach that integrates landscape ecology, perception and history, which is important for understanding landscapes and landscape changes, is also lacking. Generally, the concept of landscape seems to be misconceived in most studies undertaken in Ethiopia, mainly because it is interchangeably used with land use and land cover. Hence, there is a need for a better understanding of the concept of landscape and the applications of a holistic landscape approach.

Additional keywords: Amharic language, holistic, land cover, land use, perception, Tigrigna language.



Hoof pressure and trampling intensity of yaks are higher than those of Tibetan sheep in a Tianzhu alpine meadow

Hailei Yang A C , Jinjin Sun A C , Changlin Xu A , Jianwen Zhang A , Jinlong Chai A , Ting Jiao A and Xiaojun Yu A B

+ Author Affiliations

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 125-133
Submitted: 26 July 2018  Accepted: 18 February 2019   Published: 2 April 2019


Trampling by grazing animals exerts a comprehensive and serious effect on grassland vegetation and soil. In order to compare the trampling of yaks and Tibetan sheep under different grazing intensities, we examined the hoof pressure and trampling intensity (based on trampling area and hoof-print count) of white yaks (Poephagus grunniens) and Tibetan sheep (Ovis ammon) in an alpine meadow of Tianzhu County, Gansu Province, China, under conditions where either grazing area or livestock number were controlled. The average areas trampled by yaks and Tibetan sheep were 39.2 and 21.6 cm2 respectively. The average hoof pressure of yaks and Tibetan sheep were 6.89 and 3.13 kg cm–2 respectively. The yak-to-sheep ratio of the average area trampled was 1.81 : 1, whereas the yak-to-sheep ratio of average hoof pressure was 2.20 : 1. Average ingestion and walking trampling intensities of yaks were 384.8 × 103 and 247.1 × 103 kg cm–2, respectively, in controlled grazing areas, and 439.1 × 103 and 756.3 × 103 kg cm–2, respectively, in areas of controlled livestock numbers. These values for Tibetan sheep were 15.3 × 103 and 120.3 × 103 kg cm–2 in controlled grazing areas, and 42.6 × 103 and 128.2 × 103 kg cm–2 in areas of controlled livestock numbers. In controlled grazing areas, the ingestion and walking trampling intensities of yaks were 25.2 and 5.4 times higher, respectively, than those of sheep. Under areas of controlled livestock numbers, these values were 10.3 and 5.9 times higher, respectively, than those of sheep. The average trampling intensity of yaks was 7.3 times higher than that of the sheep. Therefore, under conditions of similar grazing intensity, yaks cause more damage than Tibetan sheep in alpine meadows.

Additional keywords: grazing intensity, livestock trampling area, number of steps, Ovis ammon, Poephagus grunniens.

Rotational grazing management achieves similar plant diversity outcomes to areas managed for conservation in a semi-arid rangeland

Sarah E. McDonald A B D , Nick Reid A , Rhiannon Smith A , Cathleen M. Waters C , John Hunter A and Romina Rader A

- Author Affiliations

A Ecosystem Management, School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia.

B NSW Department of Primary Industries, Trangie Agricultural Research Centre, PMB 19, 7878 Mitchell Highway, Trangie, NSW 2823, Australia.

C NSW Department of Primary Industries, Orange Agricultural Institute, 1447 Forest Road, Orange, NSW 2800, Australia.

D Corresponding author: Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 135-145
Submitted: 31 August 2018  Accepted: 24 February 2019   Published: 9 April 2019


Despite the increasing extent of protected areas throughout the world, biodiversity decline continues. Grazing management that promotes both biodiversity and production outcomes has the potential to improve broad-scale conservation and complement the protected area network. In this study we explored the potential to integrate commercial livestock grazing and conservation in a semi-arid rangeland in south-eastern Australia. Understorey floristic composition and diversity were compared at different spatial scales across three grazing management treatments: (1) continuous commercial grazing management where paddocks were grazed for the majority of the year (≥8 months per annum); (2) rotational commercial grazing management where livestock are frequently rotated and paddocks rested for >4 months per annum; and (3) protected areas managed for conservation with domestic livestock excluded and grazed only by native and feral herbivores. The season of sampling, rainfall, soil characteristics and the spatial location of sites were the dominant drivers of variability in understorey plant species composition; the effect of grazing treatment on understorey plant species composition was relatively minor. However, areas managed for conservation and under rotational forms of commercial grazing management generally had greater floristic richness and diversity than continuously grazed areas, the results varying with season (spring/autumn) and soil type (clay/sandy-loam), particularly at fine scale (1-m2 quadrats). These findings indicate that rotational grazing management on commercial properties has the potential to improve biodiversity conservation outside the reserve system compared to conventional grazing management.

Additional keywords: continuous grazing, floristic composition, functional diversity, richness, soil type, spatial scale.

Should I stay or should I go? Indirect effects of livestock on bird nest-site selection in arid environments

Mariana Tadey

- Author Affiliations

Lab. Ecotono, CONICET-INIBIOMA, Pasaje Gutiérrez 1125, (8400) S. C. Bariloche, Argentina. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 147-155
Submitted: 16 June 2018  Accepted: 13 March 2019   Published: 17 April 2019


Introduced livestock may indirectly affect bird species by decreasing vegetation structure and affecting the selection of nesting sites. This is especially true for birds that use shrubs as the raw material for nest construction or for nest placement. Nesting in inadequate supporting structures or the use of inadequate raw material for nest building may increase nest vulnerability (e.g. increasing structure weakness, falling and nest exposure to predation). Accordingly, bird species show a great variation in the selectivity of nesting sites and the raw material they use. Furnariidae family members exhibit an extraordinary diversity in nest placement and structure, which allows them to survive in different arid environments. I report here on a study of nest site selection of two common furnariid species, Leptasthenura aegithaloides and Pseudoseisura gutturalis, across a grazing gradient composed by nine independent paddocks within the same arid habitat. These species use large closed-nests (>40 cm long) built with thorny branches, placed on spiny shrubs. I measured nest abundance and supporting plants characteristics, vegetation structure, browsing intensity and compared the plants selected by the birds with the surrounding vegetation. These bird species used only few plant species for nest building and location. Livestock significantly reduced vegetation cover of the species used to build and place the nests, affecting nest site selection and reducing nest abundance. As livestock density increased, both species selected aggregated plants and the tallest plants for nesting, which may increase nest exposure. Therefore, livestock may indirectly affect nest-site selection of birds ultimately affecting their nesting ecology. This work illustrates how domestic livestock, through decreasing plant cover, may affect native biota with consequences on key species within an ecosystem.

Additional keywords: bird nesting ecology, desert, Furnariidae, plant–animal interaction, vegetation structure.



The contribution of the pastoral industry to a diversified land sector economy in northern Australia

Ian McLean A C and Phil Holmes B

- Author Affiliations

A Bush Agribusiness Pty Ltd, PO Box 41 Withcott, QLD 4352, Australia.

B Holmes & Company, PO Box 215 Huskisson, NSW 2540, Australia.

C Corresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(2) 157-160
Submitted: 25 October 2018  Accepted: 3 April 2019   Published: 14 May 2019


The paper ‘Emerging opportunities for developing a diversified land sector economy in Australia’s northern savannas’ (Russell-Smith and Sangha 2018: The Rangeland Journal 40, 315–330. doi:10.1071/RJ18005) draws heavily on work by the present authors. We are of the opinion that the use of our data is incomplete, and in some cases incorrect. We conclude that their analysis does not accurately portray the economic performance and contribution of the pastoral sector in northern Australia, nor justify the conclusion that fundamental land sector change is required. The present work details the concerns that we have with the Russell-Smith and Sangha paper.

Additional keywords: economics of resource use, rangeland governance, rangeland management.


The Rangeland Journal Vol. 41 (1) - February, 2019

Rotational grazing and exclosure improves grassland condition of the halophytic steppe in Flooding Pampa (Argentina) compared with continuous grazing

María Cristina VecchioA,D, V. A. BolañosA,B, R. A. GolluscioB,C and A. M. RodríguezC

- Author Affiliations

AUniversidad Nacional de La Plata, Facultad de Ciencias Agrarias y Forestales, La Plata, Argentina.

BCONICET-Universidad de Buenos Aires, Instituto de Investigaciones Ecológicas y Fisiológicas Vinculadas a la Agricultura (IFEVA), Buenos Aires, Argentina.

CUniversidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Agronomía, Departamento de Producción Animal, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

DCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 1–12

Submitted: 17 February 2018  Accepted: 12 December 2018  Published: 8 February 2019


The most common grazing management applied on rangelands is continuous grazing. However, it can cause negative changes in vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning, leading to rangeland degradation. In Flooding Pampa rangelands, scientific evidence in favour of rotational over continuous grazing was developed on the humid mesophytic meadow and the humid prairie communities, but not on the halophytic steppe community. We evaluated the changes in species composition, richness and diversity, vegetation and litter cover, functional group composition and forage quality during 8 years in halophytic steppe subjected to both continuous or rotational grazing, and exclusion from grazing. Grazing exclusion and a rotational grazing system caused significant changes in the vegetation structure compared with continuous grazing. These treatments increased vegetation and litter cover, the contribution of summer and annual and perennial winter grasses, all them of high forage value, and encouraged the appearance of several grasses adapted to fertile, well drained and non-saline soils. Because of these structural changes, species richness, diversity and pastoral value increased in the halophytic steppe of the Flooding Pampa, in a manner previously demonstrated in other grassland communities of this region.

Additional keywords: cattle, continuous grazing, exclosure, halomorphic soil, pastoral value, rangeland management.

Creating sustainable future landscapes: a role for landscape ecology in the rangelands of Northern Australia

Diane PearsonA,E,F, Muhammad NawazB and Robert WassonC,D

- Author Affiliations

ASchool of Environment, Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods, Charles Darwin University, Darwin, Northern Territory 0909, Australia.

BDepartment of Geography, National University of Singapore, 1 Arts Link, Kent Ridge, Singapore 117570.

CCollege of Science and Technology, James Cook University, Smithfield, Qld 4878, Australia.

DInstitute of Water Policy, National University of Singapore, 469A Bukit Timah Road, Tower Block, Singapore 259770.

ESchool of Agriculture and Environment, College of Sciences, Massey University, Palmerston North 4442, New Zealand.

FCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 13–21

Submitted: 28 March 2018  Accepted: 7 November 2018  Published: 15 January 2019


The principles and theory of landscape ecology can be used with careful spatial planning to maintain ecosystem function and services in the face of urbanisation and agricultural intensification of the rangelands. In the largely undisturbed catchment of Darwin harbour in Northern Australia, an area of cattle grazing, some agriculture and small urban areas, seasonally waterlogged grassy valley floors known as dambos are demonstrated to be of vital importance for the minimisation of fine sediment transport to the harbour. If the dambos are disturbed fine sediment from them will have potentially detrimental effects on the biodiversity of the upper harbour and may also add pollutants contained in the fine sediment. The incorporation of such important landscape features into landscape planning in rangelands worldwide is critical to the creation of sustainable future landscapes. Techniques that monitor condition and function of the landscape coupled with spatially informed design are able to assist in preserving the important ecosystem services that natural features can provide and thus have a significant contribution to make in landscape sustainability.

Additional keywords: dambos, geomorphological processes, landscape design, landscape function, landscape planning.

The composition, richness, and evenness of seedlings from the soil seed bank of a semi-arid steppe in northern China are affected by long-term stocking rates of sheep and rainfall variation

A. HuA, J. ZhangA, X. J. ChenA, J. P. MillnerB, S. H. ChangA, S. BowatteA and F. J. HouA,C

- Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Grassland Agro-Ecosystems, Key Laboratory of Grassland Livestock Industry Innovation, Ministry of Agriculture, China, College of Pastoral Agriculture Science and Technology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, 730000, Gansu, China.

BMassey University, Palmerston North, New Zealand.

CCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 23–32

Submitted: 6 March 2018 Accepted: 14 December 2018 Published: 22 January 2019


The soil seed bank has a large influence on the potential for grassland restoration. This study aimed to characterise the composition, density, richness, and evenness of seedlings emerging from the soil seed bank under different sheep stocking rates, in a summer grazing system, in semi-arid China. Soil was sampled in 2015, a year with extreme drought conditions and in 2016, a normal rainfall year. The soil seed bank was assessed by measuring seedling emergence under laboratory conditions. Comprising 16 species, 85.4% of the seedlings were concentrated within a depth of 0–5 cm. Drought significantly reduced the density and richness of the seedlings. Grazing increased the richness of seedlings by increasing the richness of aboveground species, and grazing significantly reduced the evenness of the seedlings by reducing the evenness of aboveground species. Drought significantly reduced the similarities between the seedlings and the aboveground species, whereas grazing increased similarities in both years. This study revealed that the density and richness of seedlings were higher in higher stocking rate in drought year. We conclude that negative effects on density, richness and evenness of the seedlings caused by drought can be overcome by rotational grazing especially at higher stocking rate.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, drought, grasslands, grazing intensity, seed banks.

Impacts of bracteole removal and seeding rate on seedling emergence of halophyte shrubs: implications for rangeland rehabilitation in arid environments

Mounir LouhaichiA,B,H, Sawsan HassanA, Ali Mekki MissaouiC, Serkan AtesB, Steven L. PetersenD, Abdoul Aziz NianeE, Slim SlimF and Azaiez Ouled BelgacemG

- Author Affiliations

AInternational Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), PO Box 950764 – Amman, Jordan.

BDepartment of Animal and Rangeland Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA.

CCentre for Applied Genetic Technologies, University of Georgia, 111 Riverbend Road, Athens, GA 30602, USA.

DDepartment of Plant and Wildlife Sciences, Brigham Young University, Provo, UT 84602, USA.

EInternational Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA), PO Box 114/5055 – Beirut, Lebanon.

FHigher School of Agriculture of Mateur, University of Carthage, Mateur, Tunisia.

GICARDA, Arabian Peninsula Regional Program, PO Box 13979 – Dubai, UAE.

HCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 33–41

Submitted: 4 December 2017 Accepted: 8 January 2019 Published: 12 February 2019


Direct seeding techniques often result in unsatisfactory outcomes in rangeland rehabilitation, primarily because of low seedling emergence and poor establishment. Seed processing techniques aimed at improving seedling emergence have gained interest by pasture managers. The purpose of this study was to investigate the combined effects of bracteole removal and seeding rate on seedling emergence in seven halophytic species: Atriplex halimus, A. canescens, A. leucoclada, A. nummularia, A. lentiformis, Salsola vermiculata and Haloxylon aphyllum under semiarid conditions in Tel Hadya (Syria). Each of these species was evaluated for seedling emergence under two seed treatments (bracteoles removed and non-removed bracteoles) with three seeding rates (10, 30 and 60 seeds per pot), in a completely randomised block design. The results showed a positive effect of seed treatment on seedling emergence for all studied species. The native A. halimus had the highest emergence percentages whereas the introduced A. mummularia, had the lowest. However, there were no significant effects of seeding rates on seedling emergence. These results showed that bracteole removal could improve germination and seedling emergence, and potentially increase the rate of establishment of the species studied. Therefore, when implementing rangeland rehabilitation projects, bracteole removal needs to be considered. The native S. vermiculata should be recommended for direct seeding in the West Asia and North Africa region given its high seedling emergence, known high palatability, nutritive value, and high auto-regeneration performance.

Additional keywords: arid and semiarid ecosystems, direct seeding, indigenous plants, rangeland restoration, seed scarification treatments.

Local community involvement in forest rangeland management: case study of compensation on forest area closed to grazing in Morocco

Said MoukrimA,B,E, Said LahssiniC, Mustapha NaggarB, Hicham LahlaoiD, Nabil RifaiB, Moustapha ArahouA and Laïla RhaziA

- Author Affiliations

AMohammed V University in Rabat, Faculty of Sciences, Research Center of Plant and Microbial Biotechnologies, Biodiversity and Environment, Avenue Ibn-Battouta B.P. 1014 RP, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco.

BWater and Forest Department, 3 Rue Harroun Errachid, Agdal, Rabat, Morocco.

CNational School of Forest Engineers, Department of Forestry Development, Bd My Youssef BP. 511. Tabriquet, Salé, Morocco.

DHassan II University in Casablanca, Faculty of Sciences Ain Chock, Geosciences Laboratory, Morocco.

ECorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 43–53

Submitted: 9 November 2017 Accepted: 17 October 2018 Published: 28 November 2018


Unmanaged livestock grazing is the greatest threat to the health and sustainability of forest rangelands in Morocco. Historically, communities have developed ingenious traditional systems in order to regulate natural resource uses. However, currently most of these principles have been undermined and have led to open access of a common pool resource. To achieve viable solutions to unmanaged livestock grazing in forestlands, local community involvement was introduced in Moroccan forestry early on. The main objective of this study was to show the importance of an original mechanism called compensation on forest area closed to grazing, carried out by the Forestry Department to involve communities that have the right of use in the restoration of forest rangeland ecosystems. It also aims to assess the mechanism’s technical and socioeconomic impacts.

Analysis of the process of community participation in the case of Moroccan forest management revealed that it was perceived and implemented in different ways, and considered either as an end in itself or (rarely) as a means to an end. Forest managers and use-rights holders appreciate the mechanism of compensation for forest areas closed to grazing. Since the implementation of this program, the number of grazing association members has increased. This trend has been associated with a positive impact on the reduction in the number of offences and on improving reforestation success rates. In addition, remote sensing showed a positive trend in the relative density and the evolution of the health of vegetation in the areas covered by this mechanism. This program helped to develop consensus in forest ecosystem restoration that will help managers to break the vicious cycle of unmanaged grazing, and promote a new collective stewardship of this precious land. As a result of this success, this program should be replicated and valued. It should be presented in the future as a tool for natural resource conservation with unintended human capital development benefits.

Additional keywords: association, collect earth, compensation, North Africa, sustainable management, traditional institutions ‘Jmaa’.

Biosolids application increases grasshopper abundance in the short term in a northern Canadian grassland

Emma S. GaudreaultA, Robert G. LalondeA, Kirstie LawsonA, Frank I. DoyleB and Karen E. HodgesA,C

- Author Affiliations

ADepartment of Biology, University of British Columbia Okanagan, 1177 Research Road, Kelowna, BC. V1V 1V7, Canada.

BWildlife Dynamics Consulting, 5575 Kleanza Drive, Terrace, BC. V8G 0A7, Canada.

CCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 55–64

Submitted: 28 July 2018 Accepted: 12 December 2018 Published: 24 January 2019


Degraded grasslands are common worldwide, often due to overgrazing by livestock; such degradation often reduces plant growth and water quality, while increasing soil erosion, wildfires, and invasive species. Recent restoration efforts have used organic amendments to increase soil nutrients, improve water retention, and increase forage production. Biosolids, the stabilised and pathogen-treated remains from wastewater treatment plants, have strong impacts on soil nutrients and plant growth, but there is very little known about impacts on higher trophic levels. We worked on northern grasslands in British Columbia, Canada, to test whether biosolids applications changed grasshopper abundances, body sizes, or species richness. We used hoop transects to measure density and timed net samples to determine richness and evenness. There were significantly higher (~3.8×) grasshopper densities at sites where biosolids were applied 1–2 years before sampling compared with control sites or sites where biosolids were applied in the year of sampling. Tibia lengths of grasshoppers varied with treatment, species, and sex, but there was no clear signature of biosolids leading to bigger body sizes. There were no significant differences in species richness or equitability in relation to the year of the biosolids application. Collectively, our results show that biosolids have large impacts on grasshopper densities, but no clear impact on community structure or body size. Because grasshoppers can be dominant insect herbivores and are critical prey for many birds and mammals, our results suggest biosolids could be an important tool in the context of site restoration or efforts to improve populations of insectivorous vertebrates.

Additional keywords: abundance, biosolids, British Columbia, diversity, grasshoppers, grasslands.

Prediction of the livestock carrying capacity using neural network in the meadow steppe

T. S. WuA,B,C, H. P. FuA,B,G, G. JinD, H. F. WuE and H. M. BaiA,B,F

- Author Affiliations

ASchool of Microelectronics, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China.

BTianjin Key Laboratory of Imaging and Sensing Microelectronic Technology, Tianjin University, Tianjin 300072, China.

CSchool of Physics and Electronic Information, Hulunbuir College, Hulunbuir 021008, China.

DHulunbuir City Hailar Meteorological Bureau, Hulunbuir 021000, China.

EChengdu Ganide Technology, Chengdu 610073, China.

FSchool of Mathematics and Statistics, Hulunbuir College, Hulunbuir 021008, China.

GCorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 65–72

Submitted: 15 May 2018 Accepted: 21 October 2018 Published: 3 January 2019


In order to predict the livestock carrying capacity in meadow steppe, a method using back propagation neural network is proposed based on the meteorological data and the remote-sensing data of Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. In the proposed method, back propagation neural network was first utilised to build a behavioural model to forecast precipitation during the grass-growing season (June–July–August) from 1961 to 2015. Second, the relationship between precipitation and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index during the grass-growing season from 2000 to 2015 was modelled with the help of back propagation neural network. The prediction results demonstrate that the proposed back propagation neural network-based model is effective in the forecast of precipitation and Normalised Difference Vegetation Index. Thus, an accurate prediction of livestock carrying capacity is achieved based on the proposed back propagation neural network-based model. In short, this work can be used to improve the utilisation of grassland and prevent the occurrence of vegetation degradation by overgrazing in drought years for arid and semiarid grasslands.

Additional keywords: BPNN, NDVI, precipitation, prediction.

Grazing promotes plant functional diversity in alpine meadows on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau

Yu LiA, Shikui DongA,B,H, Qingzhu GaoC,H, Yong ZhangD, Shiliang LiuA, David SwiftE, Jinbo ZhaoA, Hasbagan GanjurjavC, Guozheng HuC, Xuexia WangF, Yulong YanC,G, Xujuan CaoC, Wenhan LiC, Wenrong LuoC, Zhenzhen ZhaoA, Shuai LiA and Xiaoxia GaoA

- Author Affiliations

AState Key Laboratory of Water Environment Simulation, School of Environment, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China.

BDepartment of Natural Resources, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY 14853-3001, USA.

CInstitute of Environment and Sustainable Development in Agriculture, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Beijing 100081, China.

DNational Plateau Wetland Research Centre, College of Wetlands, Southwest Forestry University, Kunming, 650224, China.

ENatural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Fort Collins, CO 80523-1499, USA.

FBeijing Academy of Agricultural and Forestry Sciences, Beijing 100097, China.

GSchool of Ecology and Environment, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot, 010021, China.

HCorresponding authors. Email: dongshikui@;

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 73–81

Submitted: 11 September 2018 Accepted: 2 November 2018 Published: 8 January 2019


Grazing exclosures and rotational grazing have been extensively applied to prevent grassland degradation and to restore grassland ecosystem function and services. The mechanisms associated with changes in alpine plant traits, and functional diversity under different grazing regimes have not been deeply explored. We examined the variations of plant leaf traits and functional diversity of an alpine meadow under different grazing regimes in a 3-year experiment. The results showed, after 3 years of yak grazing, that the coverage of Stipa capillata increased, whereas that of Kobresia pygmaea decreased under grazing exclosure. Stipa capillata had a lower ratio of leaf nitrogen content to phosphorus content (N : P) under grazing exclosure than under rotational grazing and continuous grazing, whereas Kobresia pygmaea showed no significant differences among grazing treatments. Among grazing regimes, the specific leaf area (SLA) of Stipa capillata was similar, whereas that of Kobresia pygmaea was higher under grazing exclosure. At the interspecific level, leaf area and weight were negatively correlated with SLA, whereas leaf carbon (C) content, leaf N content, leaf C : P and leaf N : P were negatively related to leaf P content and leaf C : N. These findings indicated that growth-defence trade-off strategies might lead to variations in plant traits and coverage. Large-leaved species, due to high maintenance costs, were less commonly distributed in the community, and they were better defended and unpalatable to yaks due to lower SLA, this formed the species coverage distribution pattern of the community. Various N and P utilisation efficiency of different species indicated diverse economic resources utilisation strategies might be due to niche differentiation in the community. Plots that had been excluded from grazing had the lowest functional richness, evenness, and divergence. Rotational and continuous grazing were equivalent in promoting alpine plant functional diversity.

Additional keywords: leaf N : P ratio, rotational grazing, specific leaf area.

Mechanisms regulating spatial changes in grassland productivity following nutrient addition in northern China

Na ZhaoA,B, Xinqing ShaoB, Chao ChenC, Jiangwen FanD and Kun WangB,E

- Author Affiliations

AKey Laboratory of Adaptation and Evolution of Plateau Biota, Northwest Institute of Plateau Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Xining 810008, P.R. China.

BDepartment of Grassland Science, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, P.R. China.

CBeijing Research and Development Centre for Grass and Environment, Beijing 100097, P.R. China.

DInstitute of Geographical Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100101, P.R. China.

ECorresponding author. Email:

The Rangeland Journal 41(1): 83–96

Submitted: 26 April 2018 Accepted: 18 January 2019 Published: 15 January 2019


Plant biomass is the most fundamental component of ecosystems. The spatial stability of plant biomass is important, and the mechanisms regulating plant biomass spatial variability in variable environments are a central focus of ecology. However, they have rarely been explored. We conducted an experiment to test how diversity and functional traits affected variation in biomass and community response to nutrient availability in three plant communities: natural; forb, legume, and bunchgrass; and rhizomatous grass. We found that biomass stability rarely changed with increasing taxonomic species richness and functional group richness but declined with increasing Shannon–Weiner indices (the combination of richness and evenness) and functional trait diversity. However, differences in plant species composition generated different responses in both the amount and spatial variation of biomass following nutrient addition. Because rhizomatous grasses are weakly competitive in nutrient-poor conditions, interaction between resource-acquisitive (grass) and stress-tolerant (forb) species in the natural community conferred the greatest overall stability. The rapid nutrient acquisition ability of the rhizomatous grass Leymus chinensis was stimulated in nutrient-abundant conditions. The functional traits of this dominant species overrode the diversity interaction effects of the natural and forb, legume, and bunchgrass communities. This ultimately resulted in the rhizomatous grass community being the most stable. Community stability was strongly determined by a few key species, particularly rhizomatous grasses, rather than by the average response of all species, thereby supporting the mass ratio hypothesis. Our results indicated that rhizomatous grasses could provide vegetative productivity to reduce soil loss and prevent degradation of L. chinensis-dominant grassland. Thus, protecting specific species is critical for maintaining rangeland ecosystem functions. Moreover, the conservation importance of grasses, non-leguminous forbs, legumes, or even rare species could not be ignored. Maintaining stability mechanisms in natural grasslands is complex, and therefore, further studies need to focus on finding a unified mechanism that can regulate appreciable biomass variation under shifting environmental conditions.

Additional keywords: biodiversity, ecosystem functions, fertiliser, functional trait, species composition.