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Article     |     Next >>   Contents Vol 36(1)

Establishing the carrying capacity of the grasslands of China: a review

Y. J. Zhang A C , X. Q. Zhang A B D , X. Y. Wang A , N. Liu A and H. M. Kan A

A College of Animal Science and Technology, China Agricultural University, Beijing 100193, China.
B Grassland Research Institute, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Hohhot 010010, China.
C Corresponding author. Email: zhangyj@cau.edu.cn
D Contributed equally to this paper.

The Rangeland Journal 36(1) 1-9 http://dx.doi.org/10.1071/RJ13033
Submitted: 15 April 2013  Accepted: 25 October 2013   Published: 2 January 2014


 
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Abstract

China is rich in grassland resources, with 400 × 106 ha of natural grasslands and 18 main types, mostly distributed in the north-east, north, Qinghai-Tibet Plateau and Xinjiang regions. Grassland-based livestock production is the foundation of the economy in these rural areas. Degradation of grassland has occurred to varying degrees in these regions. Mean overgrazing rates across the whole country were estimated to be ~30% in 2009. Considerable amounts of research have focussed, especially since 2000, on developing better ways of managing Chinese grasslands. Research concerning the relationship between forage production and animal performance, is reviewed for three important national grassland regions. For the three major grassland (steppes) types of Inner Mongolia, the stocking rates proposed as a result of research were 1.0–2.2 sheep units (SU) ha–1 for the western, drier Stipa breviflora desert steppe; 2.0–3.8 SU ha–1 for the steppe of Artemisia frigida and Stipa grandis; and 1.8–4.0 SU ha–1 for the eastern higher-rainfall Leymus chinensis meadow steppe in Hulunbeir. In the Qinghai-Tibetan alpine meadows, the stocking rate of grassland dominated by Edelweiss-Potentilla and Kobresia parva, proposed on the basis of research, was 1.0–5.8 SU ha–1. In Xinjiang’s desert steppe, the stocking rates of Seriphidium transiliense desert steppe were proposed on the basis of research were 1.2 SU ha–1 in spring and 1.8 SU ha–1 in autumn for non-degraded pasture, and 0.3 and 1.2 SU ha–1 for moderate-degraded pasture, respectively. These stocking rates were based on either annual net primary production or desired levels of livestock production and it is argued that there is a need to develop carrying capacities based on a wider range of sustainability criteria and with the most appropriate grazing systems.

Additional keywords: grassland, Inner Mongolia, Qinghai-Tibet, stocking rate, Xinjiang.


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