Moderate grazing increases the structural complexity of soil micro-food webs by promoting root quantity and quality in a Tibetan alpine meadow

Bingbing Wan, Xiaomin Mei, Zhengkun Hu, Hui Guo, Xiaoyun Chen*, Bryan S. Griffiths, Manqiang Liu

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Livestock grazing can affect both above- and below-ground communities, however, the effects of grazing intensity on vertical distribution of root traits and their associations with belowground food webs are still unclear. Based on a 5-year grazing intensity experiment (i.e., no grazing, moderate grazing and heavy grazing) in a Tibetan plateau meadow, we investigated how grazing-induced changes in root traits affected soil biota (microbes and nematodes) from the surface (0–10 cm) and subsurface soils (10–20 cm). Our results showed that moderate grazing increased nematode abundance and structure complexity of the soil micro-food webs compared to no and heavy grazing, and predominantly increased herbivores and fungivores regardless of soil layers. Shifts in herbivores and fungivores were mainly driven by root quantity and quality, emphasizing the stronger bottom-up effects on the lower trophic levels of nematodes. Grazing decreased the number of omnivores-predators in the surface soil compared to no grazing, which therefore weakened predation pressure on soil nematodes lower in the trophic structure, including root herbivores, while that effect was far less pronounced in the subsurface soil. Our study demonstrated that changes in root quantity and quality were highly associated with the complexity of the soil micro-food webs under grazing scenarios. These findings warranted the ideas that combined aboveground herbivore-root-soil micro-food webs as an ecological holo is essential for sustainable management of grassland.

Original languageEnglish
Article number104161
JournalApplied Soil Ecology
Volume168
Early online date23 Jul 2021
DOIs
Publication statusPrint publication - Dec 2021

Keywords

  • Aboveground-belowground
  • Grazing intensity
  • Nematode assemblage
  • Root traits
  • Soil food webs
  • Trophic interaction

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