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Grazing management, season, and drought contributions to near-surface soil property dynamics and greenhouse gas flux in semiarid rangeland

Liebig, M. A., Kronberg, S. L., Hendrickson, J. R., Gross, J. R.
Rangeland ecology & management 2014 v.67 no.3 pp. 266
Agropyron desertorum, aboveground biomass, ammonium nitrogen, bulk density, carbon dioxide, drought, ecosystem services, electrical conductivity, environmental factors, fertilizer rates, grazing intensity, greenhouse gas emissions, greenhouse gases, methane, microbial biomass, nitrate nitrogen, nitrogen fertilizers, nitrous oxide, pastures, rangeland soils, rangelands, semiarid soils, semiarid zones, soil air, soil density, soil fertility, soil pH, spring, stocking rate, summer, North Dakota
Grazing management effects on soil property dynamics are poorly understood. A study was conducted to assess effects of grazing management and season on soil property dynamics and greenhouse gas flux within semiarid rangeland. Grazing management treatments evaluated in the study included two permanent pastures differing in stocking rate (moderately and heavily grazed pastures) and a fertilized, heavily grazed crested wheatgrass (Agropyron desertorum [Fisch. ex. Link] Schult.) pasture near Mandan, North Dakota. Over a period of 3 yr, soil properties were measured in the spring, summer, and fall at 0–5 cm and 5–10 cm. Concurrent to soil-based measurements, fluxes of carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxidewere measured on 1-wk to 2-wk intervals and related to soil properties via stepwise regression. High stocking rate and fertilizer nitrogen (N) application within the crested wheatgrass pasture contributed to increased soil bulk density and extractable N, and decreased soil pH and microbial biomass compared to permanent pastures. Soil nitrate nitrogen tended to be greatest at peak aboveground biomass, whereas soil ammonium nitrogen was greatest in early spring. Drought conditions during the third year of the study contributed to nearly two-fold increases in extractable N under the crested wheatgrass pasture and the heavily grazed permanent pasture, but not the moderately grazed permanent pasture. Stepwise regression found select soil properties to be modestly related to soil–atmosphere greenhouse gas fluxes, with model r2 ranging from 0.09 to 0.76. Electrical conductivity was included most frequently in stepwise regressions and, accordingly, may serve as a useful screening indicator for greenhouse gas “hot spots” in grazing land.