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A new perspective on the ecological effects of toxic weeds in grassland ecosystems
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  • Zhenchao Zhang,
  • Jian Sun,
  • Miao Liu,
  • Ming Xu,
  • Yi Wang,
  • Gaolin Wu,
  • H Zhou,
  • Chongchong Ye,
  • Tsechoe Dorji,
  • Tianxing Wei
Zhenchao Zhang
Beijing Forestry University
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Jian Sun
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Miao Liu
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Ming Xu
Rutgers University
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Yi Wang
Chengdu University of Technology
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Gaolin Wu
State Key Laboratory of Soil Erosion and Dryland Farming on the Loess Plateau of Northwest Sci-Tech University of Agriculture and Forestry
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H Zhou
Northwest Plateau Institute of Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Chongchong Ye
Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Tsechoe Dorji
Key Laboratory of Alpine Ecology and Biodiversity, Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences
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Tianxing Wei
Beijing Forestry University
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Abstract

The sharp rise in anthropogenic activities and climate change have caused the extensive degradation of grasslands worldwide, jeopardising ecosystem function and threatening human well-being. Toxic weeds have been constantly spreading in recent decades; indeed, their occurrence is considered to provide an early sign of land degeneration. Policy makers and scientific researchers often focus on the negative effects of toxic weeds, such as how they inhibit forage growth, kill livestock and cause economic losses. However, toxic weeds can have several potentially positive ecological impacts on grasslands, such as promoting soil and water conservation, improving nutrient cycling and biodiversity conservation, and protecting pastures from excessive damage by livestock. We reviewed the literature to detail the adaptive mechanisms underlying toxic weeds and to provide new insight into their roles in degraded grassland ecosystems. The findings highlight that the establishment of toxic weeds may provide a self-protective strategy of degenerated pastures that does not require special interventions. Consequently, policy makers, managers and other personnel responsible for managing grasslands need to take appropriate actions to assess the long-term trade-offs between the development of animal husbandry and the maintenance of ecological services provided by grasslands.

Peer review status:ACCEPTED

19 Feb 2020Submitted to Ecology and Evolution
20 Feb 2020Submission Checks Completed
20 Feb 2020Assigned to Editor
21 Feb 2020Reviewer(s) Assigned
31 Mar 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
01 May 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
26 May 20201st Revision Received
26 May 2020Submission Checks Completed
26 May 2020Assigned to Editor
26 May 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
29 Jun 2020Editorial Decision: Revise Minor
05 Jul 20202nd Revision Received
05 Jul 2020Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
05 Jul 2020Submission Checks Completed
05 Jul 2020Assigned to Editor
07 Jul 2020Editorial Decision: Accept