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Spatial Heterogeneity of Vegetation Structure, Plant N Pools and Soil N Content in Relation to Grassland Management

Abstract : Spatial heterogeneity in plant and soil properties plays a key role for biogeochemical cycling, nutrient losses and ecosystem function. Different management practices are expected to inducevaryinglevelsofspatialheterogeneityinagroecosystems,buttheeffectsofcontrastingbiomass removal regimes and herbivore species on grassland variability and spatial pattern have faced little attention. Wecarriedoutaspatially-explicitsamplingcampaignandgeostatisticalanalysestoquantify the spatial heterogeneity of the biomass and N in plants and soil for three management treatments (mowing, cattle grazing and sheep grazing) within a long-term grassland experiment. All plant and soil properties showed within-site variation, irrespective of management treatment. Within-site variationinplantvariablescouldberankedasgrazing>mowing. Cattlegrazingincreasedvariability in vegetation structure, soil mineral N and soil C:N compared with sheep grazing. In addition, the cattle-grazed field had a higher degree of spatial structure and a more coarse-grained pattern of spatial heterogeneity in plant properties than the sheep-grazed field. However, both grazing treatments showed spatial asynchrony in above- and below-ground responses to grazing. These results demonstrate the importance of herbivore species identity as a driver of grassland spatial heterogeneity, with implications for spatial uncoupling of nutrient cycles at the field scale.
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https://hal.inrae.fr/hal-02896383
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Submitted on : Friday, July 10, 2020 - 2:51:07 PM
Last modification on : Thursday, September 1, 2022 - 11:12:15 AM

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Juliette Bloor, Antoine Tardif, Julien Pottier. Spatial Heterogeneity of Vegetation Structure, Plant N Pools and Soil N Content in Relation to Grassland Management. Agronomy, MDPI, 2020, 10 (5), pp.716. ⟨10.3390/agronomy10050716⟩. ⟨hal-02896383⟩

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