Species-specific herbivore grazing of type-specific grassland can assist with promotion of shallow layer of soil carbon sequestration

Jie Li, Hua Chai, Shiwen Ding, Jinsong Wang, Xincheng Li, Yinong Li, Tianyun Li, Jushan Liu, Hongjun Wang, Cunzhu Liang, Chengjie Wang, Yuan Liu, Yiqi Luo, Ling Wang, Deli Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Grassland soils represent a significant potential pool for the sequestering of atmospheric CO2; however, the magnitude of this pool depends to a certain extent on the grazing management of the grassland. Whether different herbivore species and combinations (herbivore assemblage) influence the soil organic carbon (SOC) in various grasslands remains unclear. Here we have investigated the impacts of herbivore assemblages (NG, no grazing; SG, sheep grazing; CG, cattle grazing; and MG, mixed grazing of sheep and cattle) under moderate grazing intensity on a shallow layer of SOC storage across the three different grassland types (meadow steppe, typical steppe, and desert steppe) in the temperate steppes of Eastern Eurasia. We found that herbivore-species-specific effects on SOC storage depended on the grassland type. In mesic grasslands (i.e. meadow steppe and typical steppe), CG enhanced SOC storage, but there were no effects from SG. In contrast, SG in the xeric grassland (i.e. desert steppe) dramatically increased SOC storage while no effects were observed for CG. Importantly, MG of sheep and cattle consistently increased SOC storage across all grassland types. We suggest that adopting herbivore-type-specific stewardship in different grasslands could assist with the enhancement of ecosystem C functionality and services; large herbivores and small herbivores are suitable for grazing in mesic grasslands and xeric grasslands, respectively. Moreover, MG with diverse herbivores may be the optimal moderate grazing mode for soil C sequestration in most grasslands of northern China.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number114033
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • foraging behavior
  • grassland type
  • grazing mode
  • mixed grazing
  • precipitation
  • rangeland management
  • soil organic carbon

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • General Environmental Science
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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