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Changes in soil properties along grazing gradients in the mountain and forest steppe, steppe and desert steppe zones of Mongolia




Baasandorj, Ya., author
Khishigbayar, J., author
Fernandez-Gimenez, M. E., author
Tsogtbaatar, J., author
Delgertsetseg, R., author
Chantsallkham, J., author
Nutag Action and Research Institute, publisher

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Recent debates about the condition of Mongolia's rangelands and possible causes of rangeland change highlight the need for greater understanding of changes in grassland soil fertility and physical characteristics associated with grazing. As part of a large observational study of grazing effects on different Mongolian ecological zones and soil types (ecological sites), we studied soil characteristics along grazing gradients from winter shelters in the mountain and forest steppe, steppe and desert steppe ecozones of Mongolia. Our objective was to determine how grazing affects soil properties in winter pastures in different ecological zones and ecological sites within zones, based on grazing gradients. Our findings did not support our hypothesis that livestock grazing along a grazing gradient from winter shelters would lead to increased concentrations of nutrients (C, NO3-, P, K and humus) near the shelters. Instead, where soil chemical properties differed with distance, they were lowest close to winter shelters and higher with increasing distance. As hypothesized, we observed greater bulk densities nearer to winter shelters than farther away. Our hypothesis that grazing effects on soil properties would vary among ecological sites also was not supported. Further experimental and observational studies are needed to understand grazing effects on soil properties at different spatial scales and to examine feedbacks between livestock-induced changes in plant communities and soil quality.


Includes bibliographical references.
Presented at the Building resilience of Mongolian rangelands: a trans-disciplinary research conference held on June 9-10, 2015 in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.

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