The Rangeland Journal The Rangeland Journal Society
Rangeland ecology and management
REVIEW

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

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.


References

Allen, V. G., Batello, C., Berretta, E. J., Hodgson, J., Kathmann, M., Li, X., McIvor, J., Milne, J., Morris, C., Peeters, A., and Sanderson, M. (2011). An international terminology for grazing lands and grazing animals. Grass and Forage Science 66, 2–28.
An international terminology for grazing lands and grazing animals.CrossRef | open url image1

An, Y., Li, B., Yang, C., Yan, Z. J., and Han, G. D. (2002). Influence of stocking rates on population structure of Stipa grandis. Journal of Plant Ecology 26, 163–169. open url image1

Cai, L. (1992). Bos gruniens. In: ‘Livestock Ecology in China’. (Ed. P. M. Zheng.) pp. 16–18. (Agriculture Press: Beijing, China.) [In Chinese.]

Chen, F. H. (2000). MS Thesis, Xinjiang Agricultural University, China. [in Chinese].

Chen, Y. K., Chen, Y., Wang, J. F., Chen, Z. H., Wen, Y. L., Zhou, J. Y., Zhu, Q. M., and Luo, P. (1994). Effect of different grazing intensities on yak growth and sward productivity. Pratacultural Science 4, 1–4. open url image1

Chen, H. J., Wang, M. J., Han, G. D., and Wu, Z. Y. (2008). Effect of different grazing intensities on soil respiration and soil microorganism in Stipa baicalensis steppe. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment 22, 165–169. open url image1

Deng, Y., Liu, X. N., Xin, X. P., Yan, R. R., and Wang, X. (2012). Diurnal dynamic changes of photosynthetic characteristics of Leymus chinensis under different grazing intensities in the Hulunbeir meadow steppe. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 21, 308–313. open url image1

Dong, Z. X., and Liu, X. P. (2009). Status and reasons analysis for grassland degradation in Xinjiang. Journal of Hebei Agricultural Sciences 13, 89–96. open url image1

Dong, Q. M., Ma, Y. S., and Li, Q. Y. (2003). Effects of grazing intensity on the growth of yak. Acta Agrestia Sinica 11, 256–260. open url image1

Dong, Q. M., Ma, Y. S., Li, Q. Y., Zhao, X. Q., Wang, Q. J., and Shi, J. J. (2005). Effects of stocking rates on plant composition and diversity of warm seasonal community in Kobresia parva alpine meadow. Acta Botanica Boreali-Occidentalia Sinica 25, 94–102. open url image1

Du, Y. G., Liang, D. Y., Cao, G. M., Wang, Q. L., and Wang, C. T. (2008). Effect of grazing intensities on herbage nutrients and moisture of alpine Kobresia meadow. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 17, 146–150. open url image1

Duan, C. Q. (2006). Grassland resources and the sustainable utilisation in Inner Mongolia. Inner Mongolia Prataculture 18, 21–25. open url image1

Gu, J. C., Wang, M. L., and Zhao, J. F. (1997). Analysis and evaluation report for grassland resources in Inner Mongolia. Inner Mongolia Prataculture 1, 5–12. open url image1

Han, G. D., Li, B., Wei, Z. J., Yang, J., Lv, X., and Li, H. (1999). Plant compensatory growth in the grazing system of Stipa breviflora desert steppe I: Plant net productivity. Acta Agrestia Sinica 7, 1–7. open url image1

Han, G. D., Li, B., Wei, Z. J., and Li, H. (2000a). Liveweight changes of sheep under stocking rates in Stipa breviflora desert steppe. Grassland of China 1, 4–38. open url image1

Han, G. D., Wei, Z. J., Li, C. H., Yang, J., and Xu, Z. X. (2000b). Energy flow of sheep grazing system in Stipa breviflora desert steppe. Journal of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University 21, 75–80. open url image1

Han, G. D., Jiao, S. Y., Biligetu, , and Aodenggaowa, (2007). Effects of different stocking rates on diversity and productivity of plant species in Stipa breviflora Griseb desert steppe. Acta Ecologica Sinica 27, 183–189. open url image1

Jiang, X. L., Zhang, W. G., Yang, Z. Y., and Wang, G. (2003). Influence of disturbance on community structure and plant diversity in alpine meadow. Acta Botanica Boreali-Occidentalia Sinica 23, 1479–1485. open url image1

Jiao, S. Y., Han, G. D., Li, Y. Q., and Dou, H. J. (2006). Effects of different stocking rates on the structure and productivity of functional groups of the community in desert steppe. Acta Botanica Boreali-Occidentalia Sinica 26, 564–571. open url image1

Jones, R. J., and Sandland, R. L. (1974). The relation between animal gain and stocking rate. Derivation of the relation from the results of grazing trials. Journal of Agricultural Science, Cambridge 83, 335–342.
The relation between animal gain and stocking rate. Derivation of the relation from the results of grazing trials.CrossRef | open url image1

Kemp, D. R., and Michalk, D. L. (2011). ‘Sustainable Development of Livestock Systems on Grasslands in North-western China.’ ACIAR Proceedings. (Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research: Canberra, ACT.)

Kurz, I., O’Reilly, C. D., and Tunney, H. (2006). Impact of cattle on soil physical properties and nutrient concentrations in overland flow from pasture in Ireland. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 113, 378–390.
Impact of cattle on soil physical properties and nutrient concentrations in overland flow from pasture in Ireland.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD28XhtlCmsLg%3D&md5=8fc0fe7d427c46aff1a96597fb4ce1c6CAS | open url image1

Li, C. Y. (1998). Rotational grazing using electric fencing in spring-winter pasture. Chinese Journal of Animal Husbandry and Veterinary Medicine 21, 4. open url image1

Li, Y. N. (2000). Simulation of forage yield and stocking rate on alpine grassland in response to the trend of warming climate. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 9, 77–82. open url image1

Li, Z. Q., Wang, M. J., Chen, H. J., and Sun, X. L. (2010). Response of soil seed bank to different grazing intensity in Stipa breviflora desert steppe. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment 24, 184–189. open url image1

Lin, L. J., Dickhoefera, U., Müllera, K., Wurinab, , and Susenbetha, A. (2011). Grazing behaviour of sheep at different stocking rates in the Inner Mongolian steppe, China. Applied Animal Behaviour Science 129, 36–42.
Grazing behaviour of sheep at different stocking rates in the Inner Mongolian steppe, China.CrossRef | open url image1

Liu, Y. H., and Wang, P. C. (2008). Relationship between livestock development and forage production in Altay, Xinjiang. Gansu Agriculture 6, 61–62. open url image1

Liu, X. Y., Feng, Q. S., Liang, T. G., and Long, R. J. (2010). Spatial-temporal dynamic balance between livestock carrying capacity and productivity of rangeland in Gannan Prefecture, Gansu Province, China. Chinese Journal of Grassland 32, 99–106.
| 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC3cXnvFGisbc%3D&md5=b6b6d91b885282a17672aa221ac775f1CAS | open url image1

Liu, H. L., Yang, X. D., Zhang, J. Y., Jia, G. L., Chen, C., and Song, G. X. (2013). The characteristics and carrying capacity of different degradation grasslands in Seriphidium transiliense desert. Acta Agrestia Sinica 21, 50–55. open url image1

Ma, Y. S., Lang, B. N., and Wang, Q. J. (1999). Prospect of the deteriorated grassland in black soil type. Pratacultural Science 16, 529. open url image1

Meng, X. H., Li, X. L., Xin, X. P., and Zhou, Y. Z. (2009). Community characteristics and α-diversity under different grazing intensities in Leymus chinensis meadow steppe in Hulunbeir. Acta Agrestia Sinica 17, 239–244. open url image1

Ministry of Agriculture of People’s Republic of China (1996). ‘Chinese Grassland Resources.’ (China Science and Technology Press: Beijing, China.)[In Chinese.]

Ministry of Agriculture of People’s Republic of China (2011). Supervision report of national grasslands in 2010. Available at: www.grassland.gov.cn/Grassland-new/Item/2819.aspx (accessed 8 November 2013).

Pei, H. K. (2004). Effect of different grazing intensities on nutrient and texture of soil. Journal of Qinghai University 22, 29–31. open url image1

Qian, S., Mao, L. X., Hou, Y. Y., Fu, Y., Zhang, H. Z., and Du, J. (2007). Livestock carrying capacity and forage production in Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. Journal of Natural Resources 22, 329–398. open url image1

Reed, F., Roath, R., and Bradford, D. (1999). The grazing response index: a simple and effective method to evaluate grazing impacts. Rangelands 4, 3–6. open url image1

Ren, Q. J., Cui, X. L., and Zhao, B. B. (2008). Effect of grazing on structure and productivity of plant community in alpine meadow. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 17, 134–140. open url image1

Ren, Q. J., Wu, G. L., and Ren, G. H. (2009). Effect of grazing intensity on characteristics of alpine meadow communities in eastern Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 18, 256–261. open url image1

Rong, Y. P., Han, J. G., Wang, P., and Mao, P. S. (2001). Effects of grazing intensity on soil physical and chemical properties. Grassland of China 23, 41–47. open url image1

Sabit, M., Sulayman, A., and Zhou, J. J. (2002). The sustainable development of grassland resources and livestock production in Xinjiang. Pratacultural Science 19, 11–15. open url image1

Sanbairuizh, , and Zhao, H. T. (1999). Analysis report of forage and livestock balance project and its benefit in Hainan, Qinghai, China. Chinese Qinghai Journal of Animal and Veterinary Sciences 29, 30–33. open url image1

Sarulaqiqige (2007). Study on grazing intensities in steppe desert. MS Thesis, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, China. [In Chinese.]

Semmartin, M., Garibaldi, L. A., and Chaneton, E. J. (2008). Effects of grazing on above- and below-ground litter decomposition and nutrient cycling in two co-occurring grasses. Plant and Soil 303, 177–189.
Effects of grazing on above- and below-ground litter decomposition and nutrient cycling in two co-occurring grasses.CrossRef | 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD1cXht1Shur8%3D&md5=b87ff381f87ddfb740f0ea2b60fa7c8fCAS | open url image1

Shen, J. L., Zhang, G. S., Wang, Z. F., and Kong, F. X. (1996). Effect of different stocking rates on animal growth in plateau pasture. Grassland of China 1, 19–23. open url image1

Su, C. D., Zhou, L., and Shi, L. (2009). Restricting factors and countermeasures taken for development of grassland animal husbandry in Hainan, Qinghai, China. China Herbivores 29, 52–54. open url image1

Sun, X. L., Wang, M. J., Chen, H. J., Chen, L. L., and Na, L. (2010). Response of below-ground biomass to different grazing intensities in Stipa breviflora desert steppe. Journal of Inner Mongolia Agricultural University 31, 101–104.
| 1:CAS:528:DC%2BC3cXhtlaisL3F&md5=30143cefa99fa8d36b41cbffdd9677bfCAS | open url image1

Tao, M., Zhao, J., An, S. Z., Sun, Z. J., and Jin, F. L. (2008). Regeneration characteristics of Seriphidium transiliense under grazing conditions. Xinjiang Agricultural Sciences 45, 115–119. open url image1

Wang, S. P. (1997). Behaviour ecology of grazing sheep II: Influence of stocking rates on foraging behaviour of wethers. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 6, 10–17.
| 1:CAS:528:DyaK2sXivVOmtrs%3D&md5=8f88d363cdbb4136dd3d9b6088711b40CAS | open url image1

Wang, J. S. (2004). ‘Ecological Environment Monitoring System in Qinghai Province.’ (Meteorological Press: Beijing, China.)[In Chinese]

Wang, L. N. (2011). Analysis of carrying capacity and the optimal herd structure in the next five years of Gannan, Gansu, China. Gansu Agriculture 3, 16–17. open url image1

Wang, S. P., and Li, Y. H. (1997). Effects of stocking rate and grazing period on the amounts of faeces, intake and dry matter digestibility of grazing sheep. Acta Zoonutrimenta 9, 47–54.
| 1:CAS:528:DyaK1cXit1aku7o%3D&md5=ce780e3f261775cd79ff4f043e7d9af8CAS | open url image1

Wang, Y. F., and Wang, S. P. (1999a). Influence of different stocking rates on above-ground biomass and herbage quality in Inner Mongolian steppe. Acta Prataculturae Sinica 8, 15–20. open url image1

Wang, Y. F., and Wang, S. P. (1999b). Influence of different stocking rates on below-ground biomass in Inner Mongolian steppe. Acta Agrestia Sinica 7, 198–203. open url image1

Wang, S. P., Li, Y. H., and Chen, Z. Z. (1999a). The optimal stocking rate of grazing system in Inner Mongolian steppe: based on relationship between stocking rate and above-ground net primary productivity. Acta Agrestia Sinica 7, 192–197. open url image1

Wang, S. P., Li, Y. H., and Chen, Z. Z. (1999b). The optimal stocking rate of grazing system in Inner Mongolian steppe: based on liveweight gain and benefit per animal. Acta Agrestia Sinica 7, 183–191. open url image1

Wang, S. P., Wang, Y. F., and Chen, Z. Z. (2003). Effects of different stocking rates on growth and reproduction performance of Inner Mongolian fine wool sheep. Scientia Agricultura Sinica 6, 1545–1553. open url image1

Wang, Z. W., Jiao, S. Y., Han, G. D., Zhao, M. L., and Walter, D. W. (2009). The response of soil respiration to different stocking rates in Stipa breviflora desert steppe. Journal of Inner Mongolia University 1, 186–193. open url image1

Wu, G. L., and Du, G. Z. (2007). Ecological construction and sustainable development of degraded alpine grassland ecosystem in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. Chinese Journal of Nature 29, 159–164. open url image1

Wurina (2010). Grazing behaviour, herbage intake and digestibility of grazing sheep in Inner Mongolian typical steppe. MS Thesis, Inner Mongolia Agricultural University, China. [In Chinese.]

Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region Environmental Protection Agency (2007). Report on the state of Xinjiang environment. Urumqi. Available at: www.xjepb.gov.cn/hjzkgb/2007/15.htm (accessed 8 November 2013).

Xu, P. (1993). ‘Grassland Resources and the Utilization in Xinjiang.’ (Xinjiang Science and Technology Press: Urumqi, Xinjiang, China.) [In Chinese.]

Xue, R., Zheng, S. X., and Bai, Y. F. (2010). Impacts of grazing intensity and management regimes on above-ground primary productivity and compensatory growth of grassland ecosystems in Inner Mongolia. Biodiversity Science 18, 300–311. open url image1

Yan, R. R., Xin, X. P., Zhang, B. H., Yan, Y. C., and Yang, G. X. (2010). Influence of cattle grazing intensities on plant community characteristics of meadow steppe in Hulunbeir. Chinese Journal of Grassland 32, 62–67. open url image1

Yan, K., Jin, G. L., Liu, W., Adelieti, , Deng, X. J., and Zainuranmu-Abuduanni, (2011). Characteristics of plant community in spring-autumn pasture under different utilization modes in Xinjiang. Pratacultural Science 28, 1339–1344. open url image1

Yang, Z. L., and Yang, G. H. (2000). Potential productivity and livestock carrying capacity of cold-desert grassland in China. Resources Science 22, 72–77. open url image1

Yang, D. L., Han, G. D., Hu, Y. G., and Wuyungerile, (2006). Effects of grazing intensity on plant diversity and above-ground biomass of Stipa baicalensis grassland. Chinese Journal of Ecology 25, 1470–1475. open url image1

Yang, Y. W., Li, X. L., Li, J. L., Tang, Y., Zhou, H. K., and Yin, L. X. (2011). Growth response of Kobresia humilis to grazing disturbance on alpine meadow. Acta Agriculturae Boreali-occidentalis Sinica 20, 18–24. open url image1

Yi, J., Sun, X. Y., and Wang, J. J. (2010). Dynamic change of vegetation production in Inner Mongolian steppe in the last five years. Modern Animal Husbandry 6, 56–59. open url image1

Zhang, W. H., Guan, S. Y., and Wu, Y. Z. (2000). Effect of grazing capacity on moisture, nutrient and biomass of soil in typical steppe. Journal of Arid Land Resources and Environment 14, 61–64.
| 1:CAS:528:DC%2BD3cXlsVGlsb8%3D&md5=b0cb7dc474a88ec2265495926211a273CAS | open url image1

Zhang, X. Q., Luo, H. L., Zhang, Y. J., and Wang, S. (2013). Effects of restricted access time to pasture combined with indoor feeding on growth performance and feed intake of Ujumuqin lambs. Scientia Agricultura Sinica 46, 4165–4172. open url image1

Zhao, Q. S. (2011). The situation and developing strategies of animal husbandry on Inner Mongolian grassland. Mechanization in Rural & Pastoral Areas 25, 16–18. open url image1

Zheng, W., Zhu, J. Z., and Pan, C. D. (2008). Effect of grazing disturbance on plant community and soil properties of grassland in Kanasi Reserve. Pratacultural Science 25, 203–209. open url image1

Zheng, W., Zhu, J. Z., and Pan, C. D. (2010). Effect of grazing disturbance on plant functional group and community structure of meadow community in Kanas Scenic Area. Acta Agrestia Sinica 32, 92–98. open url image1

Zhou, X. M., Wang Z. B., and Du, Q. (1987). ‘Vegetation in Qinghai.’ (People’s Publishing House: Xining, Qinghai, China.) [In Chinese.]

Zou, X. Y., Dong, G. R., Li, S., Dong, Y. X., Yang, P., Jin, H. L., Zhang, C. L., and Cheng, H. (2003). Desertification and its prevention and control strategy in Tibet. Journal of Natural Disasters 12, 17–24. open url image1


Full Text PDF (541 KB) Export Citation