Grazing activity increases decomposition of yak dung and litter in an alpine meadow on the Qinghai-Tibet plateau

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Springer Nature Switzerland AG on behalf of the Royal Netherlands Society of Agricultural Science
Open Access This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
Aims This study investigated the influences of herbivore grazing intensity and grazing season on decomposition and nutrient release of dung and litter, which aimed to improve our understandings of grazing affecting nutrient cycling in alpine meadows on the Qinghai-Tibetan Platean. Methods A factorial design experiment comprising 3 grazing intensities (non-grazing, moderate grazing, and heavy grazing) and 2 grazing seasons (summer and winter), was applied to quantify the decomposition and chemistry of dung and litter in an alpine pasture using the litterbag technique. Litterbags were retrieved for analysis of mass loss and nutrient release with 180, 360, 540, and 720 days after placement. Results Grazing activity accelerated the decomposition of dung and litter and increased nutrient release from dung and litter by increasing soil temperature compared with non-grazing pastures, whereas grazing season had no effect on decomposition. The decomposition time was shorter for dung than that for litter. Conclusions Herbivores grazing benefited dung and litter decomposition and nutrient cycling directly by increasing soil temperature, which is likely to promote soil microbial activity due to low temperatures in alpine meadows, and indirectly through herbage ingestion and dung deposition which increase the organic debris concentration used for microorganisms growth and reproduction. This study provides insights into the mechanisms of grazing regulating nutrient cycling in alpine ecosystems.
Organic matter, Yak, Grazing activity, Alpine meadow, Decomposition
PLANT AND SOIL, 2019, 444 (1-2), pp. 239 - 250