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Aridity and overgrazing decrease soil carbon storage by decreasing grassland plant diversity
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  • Jushan Liu,
  • Forest Isbell,
  • Quanhui Ma,
  • Ying Chen,
  • Fu Xing,
  • Wei Sun,
  • Ling Wang,
  • Jian Li,
  • Yunbo Wang ,
  • Fujiang Hou,
  • Xiaoping Xin,
  • Zhibiao Nan,
  • Nico Eisenhauer,
  • Deli Wang
Jushan Liu
Northeast Normal University
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Forest Isbell
University of Minnesota Twin Cities
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Quanhui Ma
Northeast Normal University
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Ying Chen
Northeast Normal University
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Fu Xing
Northeast Normal University
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Wei Sun
Northeast Normal University
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Ling Wang
Northeast Normal University
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Jian Li
Northeast Normal University
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Yunbo Wang
Northeast Normal University
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Fujiang Hou
Lanzhou University
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Xiaoping Xin
the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences
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Zhibiao Nan
Lanzhou University
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Nico Eisenhauer
University of Leipzig, German Institute for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) Halle-Jena-Leipzig
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Deli Wang
Northeast Normal University
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Abstract

Climate and land-use change are some of the most profound threats to the biodiversity and functioning of the Earth’s ecosystems, yet potential synergistic effects remain unclear. Here we examined how aridity and land-use (overgrazing and haying) affect aboveground biomass and soil organic carbon (SOC) through changes in plant species richness across 716 grassland sites in northern China. We found that aridity and grazing reduced aboveground biomass and SOC through decreasing plant species richness. Notably, we observed strong negative synergistic effects of aridity and grazing, suggesting that soil carbon storage was particularly threatened by grazing in arid environments. By contrast, haying reduced aboveground biomass and had no significant effect on SOC, although it increased plant species richness. Together, the results demonstrate that climate change and overgrazing mainly threaten soil carbon storage via their detrimental effects on plant diversity, and the detrimental overgrazing effects are particularly strong under arid conditions.

Peer review status:POSTED

08 Sep 2020Submitted to Ecology Letters
10 Sep 2020Assigned to Editor
10 Sep 2020Submission Checks Completed