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Grazing intensity influence soil microbial communities and their implications for soil respiration

Zhao, Fazhu, Ren, Chengjie, Shelton, Shelby, Wang, Ziting, Pang, Guowei, Chen, Ji, Wang, Jun
Agriculture, ecosystems & environment 2017 v.249 pp. 50-56
carbon, correlation, fungal communities, grassland management, grazing intensity, meta-analysis, models, soil, soil microorganisms, soil respiration
Soil microorganisms regulate carbon (C) transfer from terrestrial sources to the atmosphere, therefore playing a pivotal role in soil C dynamics. Worldwide, grazing is one of the most prevalent grassland management strategies, yet the effects of grazing on soil microbial community size and soil respiration (SR) are still active areas of debate. We conducted a meta-analysis of 71 publications to synthesize the responses of soil microbial community size and SR to grazing. Our results showed that grazing significantly decreased soil total microbial, bacterial and fungal community size by 11.74, 8.85 and 11.45%, respectively. However, this effect were differed when the studies were grouped by the grazing intensity. Briefly, light and moderate grazing intensity had no effect on soil microbial, bacterial and fungal community size, but heavy grazing intensity significantly reduced soil’s total microbial, bacterial and fungal community size by 14.79, 16.48 and 28.12%, respectively. The responses of microbial community size to grazing were positively correlated with those of SR both under moderate and heavy grazing intensity. Our findings indicate that soil microbial community size could be an important underlying mechanism involved in determining soil C dynamics under grazing. Hence better understanding of the responses of soil microbial community size would greatly contribute to our understanding of soil C dynamics. Lastly, our results underscore the importance of factoring grazing intensity into consideration to further improve the model’s projection of soil C dynamics.