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Feces nitrogen release induced by different large herbivores in a dry grassland
- Wang, Jingzhi, Wang, Deli, Li, Chunqiang, Seastedt, Timothy R., Liang, Cunzhu, Wang, Ling, Sun, Wei, Liang, Maowei, Li, Yu
- Ecological applications 2018 v.28 no.1 pp. 201-211
- Leymus chinensis, Stipa grandis, animal wastes, biogeochemical cycles, body size, carbon nitrogen ratio, cattle, cellulose, detritus, diet, feces, forage, forbs, grasses, grasslands, grazing, hemicellulose, herbivores, microbial growth, mineralization, nitrogen, nitrogen content, nutritional adequacy, plant litter, sheep
- Large herbivores have pronounced effects on nutrient cycling in grasslands. These organisms are known to alter the quality and quantity of plant production as well as the amounts and quality of plant litter and animal wastes. The generalization that the relative quality of detritus inputs is enhanced by herbivores is well known, but how this process is affected by diet selection processing and feces production of different large herbivores remains largely unstudied. Here, we measured how these differences for cattle and sheep on a dry grassland might influence nitrogen (N) mineralization from feces. We found that cattle of larger body size tended to select the low quality grass Stipa grandis as their major food source. In contrast, the subdominant grass Leymus chinensis, with relatively high N content, was a majority in the diet of smaller sheep, when palatable forbs were insufficient in the field. This diverse diet quality resulted in a C:N ratio of cattle feces that was higher than that of sheep feces. Relatively higher labile C availability in the cattle feces, namely relatively higher cellulose/hemicellulose contents, promoted microbial growth and in turn accelerated cattle feces decomposition. A surprise finding was that the feces from cattle mineralized about twice as much N as feces from sheep, despite the latter having slightly higher N content. From a grassland productivity perspective, increasing the proportion of large body‐sized species in grazing herbivore assemblages perhaps is beneficial to forage productivity and nutrient recycling by the rapid degradation of feces.