Journal of Geographical Sciences ›› 2021, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (4): 518-534.doi: 10.1007/s11442-021-1856-6

• Research Articles • Previous Articles     Next Articles

The conservation patterns of grassland ecosystem in response to the forage-livestock balance in North China

HUANG Lin1, NING Jia1, ZHU Ping1,3, ZHENG Yuhan1,3, ZHAI Jun2   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Satellite Environment Center, Ministry of Ecology and Environment, Beijing 100094, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2020-11-05 Accepted:2021-02-25 Online:2021-04-25 Published:2021-06-25
  • About author:Huang Lin (1981‒), Associate Professor, specialized in land use change and its ecological effects. E-mail:
  • Supported by:
    The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program, No(2019QZKK0404);Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, No(XDA20020401)


Being a key ecological security barrier and production base for grassland animal husbandry in China, the balance between grassland forage supply and livestock-carrying pressure in North China directly affects grassland degradation and restoration, thereby impacting grassland ecosystem services. This paper analyzes the spatiotemporal variation in grassland vegetation coverage, forage supply, and the balance between grassland forage supply and livestock-carrying pressure from 2000 to 2015 in North China. We then discuss the spatial pattern of grassland ecological conservation under the impacts of grassland degradation and restoration, and livestock-carrying pressure. Over the last 16 years, the total grassland area in North China decreased by about 16,000 km 2, with vegetation coverage degraded by 6.7% of the grasslands but significantly restored by another 5.4% of grasslands. The provisioning of forage by natural grassland mainly increased over time, with an annual growth rate of approximately 0.3 kg/ha, but livestock-carrying pressure also increased continuously. The livestock-carrying pressure index without any supplementary feeding reached as high as 3.8. Apart from the potential livestock-carrying capacity in northeastern Inner Mongolia and the central Tibetan Plateau, most regions in North China are currently overloaded. Considering the actual supplementary feeding during the cold season, the livestock-carrying pressure index is about 3.1, with the livestock-carrying pressure mitigated in central and eastern Inner Mongolia. Assuming full supplementary feeding in the cold season, livestock-carrying pressure index will fall to 1.9, with the livestock-carrying pressure alleviated significantly in Inner Mongolia and on the Tibetan Plateau. Finally, we propose different conservation and development strategies to balance grassland ecological conservation and animal husbandry production in different regions of protected areas, pastoral areas, farming-pastoral ecotone, and farming areas, according to the grassland ecological protection patterns.

Key words: grassland degradation and restoration, forage supply, livestock-carrying pressure, grassland ecosystem conservation, North China