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Assessing the effects of grazing on variations of vegetation NPP in the Xilingol Grassland, China, using a grazing pressure index

Chi, Dengkai, Wang, Hong, Li, Xiaobing, Liu, Honghai, Li, Xiaohui
Ecological indicators 2018 v.88 pp. 372-383
grasslands, grazing intensity, primary productivity, satellites, vegetation cover, China
The objective of this study was to map and discriminate variations of vegetation net primary production (NPP) from the effects of precipitation variability and thereby identify the effects of grazing on NPP variations in the Xilingol Grassland. Satellite-based simulations of NPP collected over 14-year period and residuals method were used to normalize the effects of interannual precipitation on NPP. A fixed-size moving-window method was developed in this paper to quantify the annual grazing pressure (defined as grazing pressure index, GPI) on the regional scale, using vegetation cover images from 2001 to 2014. Temporal and spatial analysis methods were conducted to show patterns and trends of GPI and NPP residuals (NPPres), and further to examine the effects of grazing pressure changes on variations of NPPres. Our results showed 80.7% of the study area experienced increasing NPPres and 18.5% with significantly increasing trends (p < 0.05). 76.7% of the study area showed decreasing grazing pressure, and 11.8% of areas experienced significantly decreasing trends (p < 0.05), with a small patches scattered distribution pattern. The negative correlations between NPPres and GPI were found in 94.6% of the study area, and 41.9% with significant correlation (p < 0.05); and long-term decreasing grazing pressure had positive impacts on vegetation NPP. They indicate grazing is a main driving factor of variations in vegetation NPP other than precipitation in Xilingol Grassland. The spatial patterns and temporal trends of NPPres, grazing pressure and responses of NPPres to grazing pressure changes varied among three main grassland types.