Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China

Richard B. Harris, Leah H. Samberg, Emily T. Yeh, Andrew T. Smith, Wang Wenying, Wang Junbang, Gaerrang, The Late Donald J Bedunah

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Livestock grazing is the principal land use in arid central Asia, and range degradation is considered a serious problem within much of the high-elevation region of western China termed the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Rangeland degradation on the QTP is variously attributed to poor livestock management, historical-cultural factors, changing land tenure arrangements or socioeconomic systems, climate change, and damage from small mammals. Few studies have examined currently managed pastures using detailed data capable of isolating fine-scale livestock-vegetation interactions. The aim of the study was to understand how differences among livestock (primarily sheep) management strategies of pastoralists during winter affected subsequent rangeland condition and productivity. Plant species composition, annual herbage mass, and indicators of erosion were quantified during four summers (2009-2012) on winter pastures managed by 11 different pastoralists on QTP steppe rangeland in Qinghai Province, China. Data came from repeated-measurements on 317 systematically located permanent plots, as well as pastoralist interviews and the use of GPS-equipped livestock. Relationships between annual weather variation and herbage mass were modelled using an independent set of vegetation measurements obtained from livestock exclosures. Account was taken of inherent site differences among pastures. Annual variation in herbage mass was found to be best fitted by a model containing a negative function of winter-season temperature and a positive function of spring-season temperature. Accounting for annual and site effects, significant differences among pastoralists were found for most response variables, suggesting that individual heterogeneity among management approaches had consequences, even among neighbouring pastoralists. Annual herbage mass of preferred plant species was positively associated, whereas that of unpreferred species was negatively associated, with mean sheep density and intensity of use. However, the proportion of bare soil, an index of erosion, and annual herbage mass of unpreferred forbs were found to have positive relationships with sheep grazing pressure during the preceding winter, whereas live vegetation cover and annual herbage mass of preferred grasses were negatively related. Thus, on a spatial scale, pastoralists responded adaptively to the cover of preferred plant species while not responding to total annual herbage mass. Pastoralists stocked pastures more heavily, and livestock used regions within pastures more intensively, where preferred species had a higher cover. However, where sheep grazing pressure was high, downward temporal trends in the herbage mass of preferred species were exacerbated. Pastures that were stocked at a lower density did not experience the negative trends seen in those with a higher density.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-15
Number of pages15
JournalRangeland Journal
Volume38
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2016

Fingerprint

grazing management
steppes
rangeland
rangelands
steppe
grasslands
grassland
forage
livestock
pasture
China
pastures
sheep
plateaus
winter
grazing pressure
grazing
plateau
erosion
land tenure

Keywords

  • China
  • grasslands
  • livestock
  • Qinghai-Tibetan plateau
  • rangeland degradation
  • steppe vegetation
  • Tibetan pastoralism.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

Cite this

Harris, R. B., Samberg, L. H., Yeh, E. T., Smith, A. T., Wenying, W., Junbang, W., ... Bedunah, T. L. D. J. (2016). Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China. Rangeland Journal, 38(1), 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ15040

Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China. / Harris, Richard B.; Samberg, Leah H.; Yeh, Emily T.; Smith, Andrew T.; Wenying, Wang; Junbang, Wang; Gaerrang; Bedunah, The Late Donald J.

In: Rangeland Journal, Vol. 38, No. 1, 2016, p. 1-15.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Harris, RB, Samberg, LH, Yeh, ET, Smith, AT, Wenying, W, Junbang, W, Gaerrang & Bedunah, TLDJ 2016, 'Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China', Rangeland Journal, vol. 38, no. 1, pp. 1-15. https://doi.org/10.1071/RJ15040
Harris, Richard B. ; Samberg, Leah H. ; Yeh, Emily T. ; Smith, Andrew T. ; Wenying, Wang ; Junbang, Wang ; Gaerrang ; Bedunah, The Late Donald J. / Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China. In: Rangeland Journal. 2016 ; Vol. 38, No. 1. pp. 1-15.
@article{36b258f8e77a4ca8a26c45a6c5d2abdb,
title = "Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China",
abstract = "Livestock grazing is the principal land use in arid central Asia, and range degradation is considered a serious problem within much of the high-elevation region of western China termed the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Rangeland degradation on the QTP is variously attributed to poor livestock management, historical-cultural factors, changing land tenure arrangements or socioeconomic systems, climate change, and damage from small mammals. Few studies have examined currently managed pastures using detailed data capable of isolating fine-scale livestock-vegetation interactions. The aim of the study was to understand how differences among livestock (primarily sheep) management strategies of pastoralists during winter affected subsequent rangeland condition and productivity. Plant species composition, annual herbage mass, and indicators of erosion were quantified during four summers (2009-2012) on winter pastures managed by 11 different pastoralists on QTP steppe rangeland in Qinghai Province, China. Data came from repeated-measurements on 317 systematically located permanent plots, as well as pastoralist interviews and the use of GPS-equipped livestock. Relationships between annual weather variation and herbage mass were modelled using an independent set of vegetation measurements obtained from livestock exclosures. Account was taken of inherent site differences among pastures. Annual variation in herbage mass was found to be best fitted by a model containing a negative function of winter-season temperature and a positive function of spring-season temperature. Accounting for annual and site effects, significant differences among pastoralists were found for most response variables, suggesting that individual heterogeneity among management approaches had consequences, even among neighbouring pastoralists. Annual herbage mass of preferred plant species was positively associated, whereas that of unpreferred species was negatively associated, with mean sheep density and intensity of use. However, the proportion of bare soil, an index of erosion, and annual herbage mass of unpreferred forbs were found to have positive relationships with sheep grazing pressure during the preceding winter, whereas live vegetation cover and annual herbage mass of preferred grasses were negatively related. Thus, on a spatial scale, pastoralists responded adaptively to the cover of preferred plant species while not responding to total annual herbage mass. Pastoralists stocked pastures more heavily, and livestock used regions within pastures more intensively, where preferred species had a higher cover. However, where sheep grazing pressure was high, downward temporal trends in the herbage mass of preferred species were exacerbated. Pastures that were stocked at a lower density did not experience the negative trends seen in those with a higher density.",
keywords = "China, grasslands, livestock, Qinghai-Tibetan plateau, rangeland degradation, steppe vegetation, Tibetan pastoralism.",
author = "Harris, {Richard B.} and Samberg, {Leah H.} and Yeh, {Emily T.} and Smith, {Andrew T.} and Wang Wenying and Wang Junbang and Gaerrang and Bedunah, {The Late Donald J}",
year = "2016",
doi = "10.1071/RJ15040",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "38",
pages = "1--15",
journal = "Rangeland Journal",
issn = "1036-9872",
publisher = "Australian Rangeland Society",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Rangeland responses to pastoralists' grazing management on a Tibetan steppe grassland, Qinghai Province, China

AU - Harris, Richard B.

AU - Samberg, Leah H.

AU - Yeh, Emily T.

AU - Smith, Andrew T.

AU - Wenying, Wang

AU - Junbang, Wang

AU - Gaerrang,

AU - Bedunah, The Late Donald J

PY - 2016

Y1 - 2016

N2 - Livestock grazing is the principal land use in arid central Asia, and range degradation is considered a serious problem within much of the high-elevation region of western China termed the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Rangeland degradation on the QTP is variously attributed to poor livestock management, historical-cultural factors, changing land tenure arrangements or socioeconomic systems, climate change, and damage from small mammals. Few studies have examined currently managed pastures using detailed data capable of isolating fine-scale livestock-vegetation interactions. The aim of the study was to understand how differences among livestock (primarily sheep) management strategies of pastoralists during winter affected subsequent rangeland condition and productivity. Plant species composition, annual herbage mass, and indicators of erosion were quantified during four summers (2009-2012) on winter pastures managed by 11 different pastoralists on QTP steppe rangeland in Qinghai Province, China. Data came from repeated-measurements on 317 systematically located permanent plots, as well as pastoralist interviews and the use of GPS-equipped livestock. Relationships between annual weather variation and herbage mass were modelled using an independent set of vegetation measurements obtained from livestock exclosures. Account was taken of inherent site differences among pastures. Annual variation in herbage mass was found to be best fitted by a model containing a negative function of winter-season temperature and a positive function of spring-season temperature. Accounting for annual and site effects, significant differences among pastoralists were found for most response variables, suggesting that individual heterogeneity among management approaches had consequences, even among neighbouring pastoralists. Annual herbage mass of preferred plant species was positively associated, whereas that of unpreferred species was negatively associated, with mean sheep density and intensity of use. However, the proportion of bare soil, an index of erosion, and annual herbage mass of unpreferred forbs were found to have positive relationships with sheep grazing pressure during the preceding winter, whereas live vegetation cover and annual herbage mass of preferred grasses were negatively related. Thus, on a spatial scale, pastoralists responded adaptively to the cover of preferred plant species while not responding to total annual herbage mass. Pastoralists stocked pastures more heavily, and livestock used regions within pastures more intensively, where preferred species had a higher cover. However, where sheep grazing pressure was high, downward temporal trends in the herbage mass of preferred species were exacerbated. Pastures that were stocked at a lower density did not experience the negative trends seen in those with a higher density.

AB - Livestock grazing is the principal land use in arid central Asia, and range degradation is considered a serious problem within much of the high-elevation region of western China termed the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau (QTP). Rangeland degradation on the QTP is variously attributed to poor livestock management, historical-cultural factors, changing land tenure arrangements or socioeconomic systems, climate change, and damage from small mammals. Few studies have examined currently managed pastures using detailed data capable of isolating fine-scale livestock-vegetation interactions. The aim of the study was to understand how differences among livestock (primarily sheep) management strategies of pastoralists during winter affected subsequent rangeland condition and productivity. Plant species composition, annual herbage mass, and indicators of erosion were quantified during four summers (2009-2012) on winter pastures managed by 11 different pastoralists on QTP steppe rangeland in Qinghai Province, China. Data came from repeated-measurements on 317 systematically located permanent plots, as well as pastoralist interviews and the use of GPS-equipped livestock. Relationships between annual weather variation and herbage mass were modelled using an independent set of vegetation measurements obtained from livestock exclosures. Account was taken of inherent site differences among pastures. Annual variation in herbage mass was found to be best fitted by a model containing a negative function of winter-season temperature and a positive function of spring-season temperature. Accounting for annual and site effects, significant differences among pastoralists were found for most response variables, suggesting that individual heterogeneity among management approaches had consequences, even among neighbouring pastoralists. Annual herbage mass of preferred plant species was positively associated, whereas that of unpreferred species was negatively associated, with mean sheep density and intensity of use. However, the proportion of bare soil, an index of erosion, and annual herbage mass of unpreferred forbs were found to have positive relationships with sheep grazing pressure during the preceding winter, whereas live vegetation cover and annual herbage mass of preferred grasses were negatively related. Thus, on a spatial scale, pastoralists responded adaptively to the cover of preferred plant species while not responding to total annual herbage mass. Pastoralists stocked pastures more heavily, and livestock used regions within pastures more intensively, where preferred species had a higher cover. However, where sheep grazing pressure was high, downward temporal trends in the herbage mass of preferred species were exacerbated. Pastures that were stocked at a lower density did not experience the negative trends seen in those with a higher density.

KW - China

KW - grasslands

KW - livestock

KW - Qinghai-Tibetan plateau

KW - rangeland degradation

KW - steppe vegetation

KW - Tibetan pastoralism.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=84961786458&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=84961786458&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1071/RJ15040

DO - 10.1071/RJ15040

M3 - Article

VL - 38

SP - 1

EP - 15

JO - Rangeland Journal

JF - Rangeland Journal

SN - 1036-9872

IS - 1

ER -