Orginal Article

Comparison of ecosystem services provided by grasslands with different utilization patterns in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region

  • DU Bingzhen , 1, 3 ,
  • ZHEN Lin , 1, 2* ,
  • HU Yunfeng 1, 2 ,
  • YAN Huimin 1, 2 ,
  • DE GROOT Rudolf 3 ,
  • LEEMANS Rik 3
  • 1. Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
  • 2. Resource and Environment, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China ;
  • 3. Environmental Systems Analysis Group, Wageningen University and Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 3, 6700 AA Wageningen, The Netherlands
*Corresponding author: Zhen Lin, Professor, E-mail:

Author: Du Bingzhen (1981-), PhD Candidate, specialized in ecosystem services, ecological restoration, and eco- compensation. E-mail:

Received date: 2017-05-23

  Accepted date: 2017-10-23

  Online published: 2018-10-25

Supported by

National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.41671517

National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2016YFC0503700


Journal of Geographical Sciences, All Rights Reserved


Although several previous studies in Inner Mongolia examined the effects of ecological conservation on the delivery of ecosystem services, they were often limited in scope (few ecosystem services were assessed) and often suffered from confounding by spatial variation. In this study, we examined the impact of conservation measures (changes in grassland utilization patterns) on the provision of selected ecosystem services in three types of grasslands (meadow steppe in Hulun Buir, typical steppe in Xilin Gol, and semi-desert steppe in Ordos) in Inner Mongolia. We examined five utilization patterns: no use (natural grasslands), light use, moderate use, intensive use, and recovery sites (degraded sites protected from further use). Through household surveys and vegetation and soil surveys, we measured the differences in ecosystem services among the different grassland utilization patterns. We also identified spatial factors that confounded the quantification of ecosystem services in different types of grasslands. We found that light use generally provided high levels of ecosystem services in meadow steppe and typical steppe, with the main differences in the supporting ecosystem services. Surprisingly, we found no consistently positive impacts of strict conservation activities across the sites, since the results varied spatially and with respect to differences in the land-use patterns. Our study suggests that appropriate grassland utilization patterns can enhance the supply of ecosystem services and reduce negative effects on both household livelihoods and the environment.

Cite this article

DU Bingzhen , ZHEN Lin , HU Yunfeng , YAN Huimin , DE GROOT Rudolf , LEEMANS Rik . Comparison of ecosystem services provided by grasslands with different utilization patterns in China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region[J]. Journal of Geographical Sciences, 2018 , 28(10) : 1399 -1414 . DOI: 10.1007/s11442-018-1552-3

1 Introduction

1.1 Background and problem statement

Ecosystem services are the benefits that people derive from ecosystems, and represent the conditions and processes through which ecosystems and the species sustain and satisfy the needs of human life (Daily, 1997; Deng et al., 2016). The rapid economic growth that has occurred since the 1950s has led to serious environmental threats caused by humans, as we have consumed the services provided by natural ecosystems more rapidly and extensively than in any comparable period of human history. As a result of this unsustainable use, the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2003) reported that 15 of the world’s 24 ecosystem services are declining. As these services are essential for human well-being, it is increasingly urgent that we understand the interactions between humans and their ecological environment that result from the consumption and utilization of ecosystem services (Du et al., 2014; Liu et al., 2007).
The analysis of ecosystem services has become an important source of data that support policy development and the management of natural resources (Crossman et al., 2013). The analysis of ecosystem services commonly focuses on the supply of immediate, direct benefits to humans, such as provisioning services (MEA, 2005), and decision-making therefore ignores the regulating and supporting services that permit these provisioning sources to exist (Abson and Termansen, 2011). However, shifts in management philosophy towards maintaining the regulating and supporting services are increasingly advocated given the threats these services pose to the continued supply of provisioning services as a result of climate change and human interventions. This increasing understanding of the interdependencies among services have led managers to understand the need to seek compromises for the trade-offs among the different services (Prober et al., 2012; Xue and Zhen, 2018).
A key element for the maintenance of multiple ecosystem services is to identify and account for changes in the intensity of land-use patterns (e.g., plant cultivation, forestry, livestock activities) in the policy development process. Indeed, these patterns depend on several services (Power, 2010). However, the changes associated with the development of these patterns often have important negative impacts on ecosystem services in the medium and long term that impair the land’s ability to continue sustaining such activities (Kareiva et al., 2011; Raudsepp-Hearne et al., 2010; Swinton et al., 2007). To maintain multiple ecosystem services, it is necessary to seek an optimal spatial allocation of human activities that will minimize their negative environmental impacts. Growing recognition of the need for such analyses has led to the incorporation of ecosystem analysis as a mandatory component of ecosystem management in many countries (Pan et al., 2013; Zhen and Du, 2017). In addition, there is also a critical need for new studies that reveal the simultaneous changes in provision of multiple services so that managers can better understand the tradeoffs involved in the delivery of ecosystem services and look for solutions and synergies (Bennett et al., 2009).
Unfortunately, analyses of multiple ecosystem services are problematic. For instance, researchers are typically constrained in the number and range of services they can analyze due to a lack of available datasets at relevant scales. Focusing on only two or three indicators (such as remote-sensing data for net primary productivity) runs the risk of creating an incomplete or distorted picture of the full range of services that different ecosystems or land use types provide. Most research has been theoretical, which results in excessive reliance on imperfect proxies for ecosystem services; for example, soil carbon stocks are often used as a proxy for climate regulation services. This approach limits and constrains the findings (Castro et al., 2015). In current research, a lack of focus on supporting services has made it especially difficult to compare different utilization patterns due to a mismatch of the scales of analysis for different services.
To solve some of these problems and improve the support for developing resource- management policy in the grasslands of Inner Mongolia, we aimed to reduce the bias that results from focusing on too few services. To do so, we analyzed these grasslands, which are highly vulnerable to human activities, to provide a more comprehensive understanding of the relationships between natural resource conservation actions (which result in different land utilization patterns) and the resulting impacts on ecosystem services. We performed a household survey to understand the context for residents of this region, performed vegetation and soil surveys, and obtained expert opinions to (1) identify the major ecosystem services provided by Inner Mongolia’s grassland ecosystem; (2) classify the grassland utilization patterns; and (3) assess the ecosystem services and their variations among grasslands in different geographic locations and with different utilization patterns. Our study included both sites that are managed for nature conservation and sites with a range of utilization intensities in three parts of Inner Mongolia with different geographic characteristics. The results of our research will improve grassland management in our study area by accounting for both ecological conservation and the livelihoods of residents of the region.

1.2 Study area

Meadow steppe, typical steppe and semi-desert steppe are the major types of grassland ecosystem from northeast to southwest of Inner Mongolia, and are most commonly used for grazing and animal production (Kang et al., 2007). Three typical study sites (Hulun Buir, Xilin Gol and Ordos) have been involved to represent this gradient in different types of grassland ecosystem, respectively. The local people in selected study sites depend mainly on animal husbandry to sustain their daily needs. The grassland ecosystem supplies almost all of the forage needed for their livestock’s consumption (Zhen et al., 2010). However, the grasslands of Inner Mongolia have been experiencing serious degradation for decades that is directly threatening both the eco-environment and the sustainability of regional socio-economic development. A series of ecosystem conservation policies and countermeasures to alleviate the anthropogenic stresses on the ecosystems have been implemented by national and local governments, aiming to reverse the increasing tendency toward grassland degradation.
The policy of “Return pastures to grassland” was implemented in 1998 and extended throughout the region after several years’ experience. The policy included four important measures that influence the use of grasslands (NDRC, 2014):
(1) Seasonal grazing measure allows free grazing in pastures only during a certain season (e.g., summer), typically throughout the grass growth period from April to November. During the winter, herders feed their livestock indoors (warm cattle shed) using conserved or purchased forage. This approach has been broadly implemented in Inner Mongolia, especially in slightly degraded grassland, such as that in Hulun Buir.
(2) Rotational grazing measure is mainly carried out in slightly and moderately degraded grassland, mostly in Xilin Gol but also on a small scale in Hulun Buir. In this measure, the grassland is fenced and divided into paddocks that are then used in rotation (25 to 50 day intervals), which heavily limited the time of pasture use, with the goal of leaving time for vegetation recovery.
(3) Grazing prohibition measure has been implemented in intensely degraded grassland, especially in Ordos, to encourage grassland recovery. Because prohibited use of pasture could cause high economic losses by reducing the number of livestock. Herders can support and can lead to a requirement for high economic inputs due to the need to purchase fodder.
(4) Livestock-rearing control has the objective of lowering the human intervention on pastures by limiting the number of livestock allowed to graze in an area. Xilin Gol has been strongly influenced by this measure. The number of livestock is defined based on the carrying capacity of local grasslands, and nomadic grazing is prohibited and replaced by indoor rearing. To implement this measure, grassland fencing has been widely performed.

2 Materials and methods

2.1 Identifying grassland utilization patterns

Ecosystems may change the state in response to geographic variation, the degree of grassland utilization, and indirect impacts via management responses such as changed grazing regimes. By considering these factors, we defined five grassland utilization patterns: no use, light use, moderate use, intensive use, and recovery. Multiple methods were used to identify the grassland utilization patterns (Table 1).
Table 1 Characteristics of the five grassland utilization patterns in Inner Mongolia
Utilization pattern Features Degree of use Source
No use - Natural grassland
- No degradation
- No grazing (no sign of trampling or livestock dung)
None Literature reviews
Expert interviews
Remote sensing data (comparison of images from 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2010)
Field observations (density of dung, traces of grazing)
Household surveys (no. of livestock in their pasture, grazing locations, activities)
Light use - Occasional use (<4 months from April to November)
- Seasonal grazing or rotational grazing
- Livestock number controlled
Moderate use - Continuous use from April to November
- Seasonal grazing
- Livestock number controlled
Intensive use - Continuous use from April to November
- Mowing for winter fodder
- No grazing control measures
Recovery - Fencing used to exclude livestock and protect the grassland
- Grazing prohibition
- Used to be a seriously degraded area
- Recovering from degradation
(1) Before we went to the field, we identified the five utilization patterns based on an intensive literature review, analysis of remote-sensing data, and interviews with experts.
(2) During the field surveys, we used the density of dung and traces of grazing as an indicator of grazing intensity.
(3) We also invited local herders to provide information on their number of livestock, grazing locations, and grazing practices (e.g. seasonal grazing, rotational grazing).

2.2 Selection of ecosystem services indicators

The local grassland ecosystem in Inner Mongolia provides multiple ecosystem services to the indigenous people, and it was not possible to assess all of them. Thus, we used three steps to identify the most important ecosystem services and relevant indicators:
(1) Identifying ecosystem services through a literature review. Based on the classification schemes that have been devised, such as those of De Groot et al. (2002) and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA, 2005), we selected a list of potential ecosystem services for consideration (Appendix 1).
(2) Identifying vital ecosystem services for Inner Mongolia grasslands. We conducted a stakeholder workshop on local grassland use perspectives in the summer of 2012 in Xilin Gol. The workshop’s aim was to obtain information on the relative importance level of ecosystem services from the local perspective. We based our invitation of local stakeholders to the workshop on the concept of multi-level governance (Suškevics, 2012). On a county level, we selected participants from among local stakeholders following the recommendations of the government officials of Xilin Gol, who was responsible for grassland management and land use planning issues. On a village level, we asked the village headmen if they were interested in joining the workshop during a household survey in Xilin Gol that occurred shortly before the stakeholder workshop. The final group of stakeholder workshop included mixed members of 10 participants (3 village headmen and 7 county officials). According to the list of ecosystem services identified in the first step, we asked the stakeholders to assign weights that represented the perceived importance of each ecosystem service (very important, important and less important). Based on the results of this workshop, we identified 7 key ecosystem services, including: 3 provisioning services (food, raw materials including fodder, and fuel), two regulating services (soil retention and soil nutrients), and two supporting services (primary production and habitat). These were selected based on their high importance to sustain rural socio-economic activities and to prevent negative environmental impacts on the local grasslands.
(3) Selecting indicators for assessing the ecosystem services identified in the second step. Meat is the major food provisioning service that was driven from the grassland ecosystem, and can be represented based on the number of livestock per household. Beef and mutton were the two major types of meat produced in the study area. The raw material provisioning service can be quantified as the amount of fodder consumed by local livestock. The fuel provisioning service was based on the fact that the livestock produced dung, which was dried and used as a traditional local fuel source. Regulating services represent benefits that obtained from regulation of the environment and ecosystem processes. In this category, soils are considered the primary element (MEA, 2005). Many studies have indicated that extensive degradation of Inner Mongolia’s grasslands has been accompanied by decreased regulating services, such as loss of soil nutrients and increased soil erosion and desertification (e.g. Zhang et al., 2013). We chose soil bulk density, soil water content, and soil nutrient contents as the site-specific indicators of the regulating services. Supporting services were defined as services necessary for the production of ecosystem functions. The most important product of Inner Mongolia’s grasslands is livestock, and two main factors control the number of livestock: primary production and habitat (biodiversity). To avoid the bias that can result from using a single indicator, we divided primary production into aboveground biomass and the proportion of this biomass is edible. Similarly, because grasses are the dominant vegetation type in the grasslands, we used 3 biodiversity indicators to quantify the habitat characteristics: the Margalef, Shannon-Wiener and Pielou indices, which represent species richness, diversity, and evenness, respectively. Details of these indicators are presented in Section 2.3.3 and Table 2 summarizes the results of this selection process.
Table 2 Proposed indicators for assessing ecosystem services under the different grassland utilization patterns
Ecosystem service Selected indicators Data sources Grassland management implications
Provisioning Meat No. of livestock Livelihood survey Food provision, livelihood sustainability
Raw materials Fodder
Fuel Dry dung
Regulating Soil retention Soil bulk density
Soil water content
Field sampling plots Erosion defense, security, agricultural production
Soil nutrients Soil organic matter (SOM)
Available nitrogen (AN)
Available phosphorus (AP)
Available potassium (AK)
Fertile soils, decomposition of organic matter
Supporting Primary production Aboveground biomass (AGB)
Proportion of edible biomass
Field sampling plots Silage, hay for livestock, food for wild species
Habitat (biodiversity) Margalef (species richness) index
Shannon-Wiener (species diversity) index
Pielou (species evenness) index
Safeguarding of natural heritage
Functional diversity

2.3 Quantification of ecosystem services

2.3.1 Accounting for provisioning services by household surveys
To quantify the spatial variations of actual provisioning services derived from the grasslands (semi-desert steppe, typical steppe, and meadow steppe) to sustain household needs, we conducted a questionnaire survey from June to July 2011 that was administered to 230 households, with an average of 23 households per village in 10 villages (3 in Hulun Buir, 3 in Xilin Gol, and 4 in Ordos; Figure 1), and received 209 valid responses (90.9%). To explore and quantify how ecosystem conservation (the different land use patterns) affected the delivery of ecosystem services, we included the abovementioned 10 villages, which were different in geographical and ecological characteristics and socio-economic activities. In each village, we used stratified random sampling method to select households for interviews; households were only included in the survey if they comprised at least two people (typically a married couple). Based on the recommendation of Tabachnick and Fidell (2007) that the sample should include more than 50% of the total households for populations smaller than 100 households, the questionnaires were submitted to more than 65% of the total number of households in each village for our survey. We achieved a very high valid response rate (90.9%) because the household questionnaire was applied through face to face interviews in which the respondents filled out the questionnaires with guidance from the research group. The questionnaires were gathered to sort out the information on household’s demographic characteristics and socio-economic activities; quantification of household consumption of food (e.g. meat), fuel, fodder and their sources derived from grassland provisioning services; and information to help validate our preliminary classification of the grassland utilization patterns.
Figure 1 Location of the study area and map of the study sites. Grassland types: high-cover, vegetation cover >50%; medium-cover, vegetation cover between 25% and 50%; low-cover, vegetation cover <25%. Numbers in the inset maps refer to the study plot numbers
2.3.2 Assessing regulating services by investigating soil properties
We quantified regulating and supporting services by means of a vegetation and soil sample plot survey in June and July 2011, at the same time as the household questionnaire survey.We established sampling plots at 16 sampling sites (Table 3) from the interviewed household’s rangeland to provide an estimate of the spatial variation in soil and vegetation characteristics; these included plots in semi-desert steppe (at 5 locations in Ordos), typical steppe (at 4 locations in Xilin Gol), and meadow steppe (at 7 locations in Hulun Buir). The vegetation surveys in June and July were conducted during the key growth period for the local vegetation. There were five no use sites, three light use sites, two moderate use sites, two intensive use sites (due to restrictions of regional policy, only in Hulun Buir), and four recovery sites. The main treatments for the recovery sites are fencing and replantation of grasses, the duration of recovery sites in Xilin Gol was 5 years, and durations of recovery sites in Ordos were 7-10 years (Table 3).
Table 3 Basic characteristic of the study plots
Location Plota number Longitude (°N) Latitude (°E) Tb (℃) Pc (mm) No. of species Type of grassland Soil type Utilization intensity
Hulun Buir 101 119.8 48.89 ‒1 329.5 22 Meadow steppe Medium/light loam None
102 119.81 48.82 ‒0.9 334.0 17 Meadow steppe Medium/light loam Intensive
103 119.77 48.77 ‒0.8 336.5 44 Meadow steppe Medium/light loam Moderate
201 119.71 48.72 ‒0.7 338.3 32 Meadow steppe Medium/heavy loam None
202 119.68 48.72 ‒0.7 337.5 33 Meadow steppe Heavy/medium loam None
203 119.79 48.8 ‒0.8 334.9 16 Meadow steppe Light/sandy loam Intensive
204 119.74 48.81 ‒0.9 333.3 42 Meadow steppe Medium/light loam Light
Xilin Gol 301 115.14 42.33 3.3 217.0 23 Typical steppe Sandy loam Light
401 114.88 42.21 3.4 210.2 10 Typical steppe Light/sandy loam Recovery
(5 years)
402 114.95 42.22 3.4 210.9 15 Typical steppe Light/sandy loam Moderate
403 115.12 42.23 3.3 217.6 24 Typical steppe Light loam None
Ordos 501 109.79 39.84 7.1 248.1 20 Semi-desert steppe Light loam None
502 109.32 39.92 7.2 219.8 19 Semi-desert steppe Sandy loam Recovery
(10 years)
503 109.92 39.36 7.1 230.1 20 Semi-desert steppe Dense sand, sandy loam Recovery
(8 years)
504 109.72 39.34 7.1 225.6 26 Semi-desert steppe Sandy loam, dense sand Light
505 109.87 39.69 7.1 247.5 17 Semi-desert steppe Light loam, sandy loam Recovery
(7 years)

a Locations of the plots are shown in Figure 1.

b T is the annual average temperature (℃), were obtained from meteorological stations in Inner Mongolia in 2011.

c P is the annual average precipitation (mm), were obtained from meteorological stations in Inner Mongolia in 2011.

At each site, soil samples were collected from three soil profiles to determine soil properties to a depth of 30 cm. Soil samples were carefully cleaned to remove plant materials and organic matter, then were air-dried and sieved through a 2-mm mesh to extract coarse materials. The three replicates were then carefully mixed to produce a single bulked sample. Analysis of soil properties was then conducted at the Physics and Chemistry Laboratory of Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing. Soil properties were determined following standard protocols (Bao, 2000; Brown, 1993). Each mixed soil sample was divided into two parts. One sub-sample was oven-dried at 105°C to constant weight to measure the bulk density and gravimetric soil water content. The other sub-sample was ground to a final size of 1 mm in a ball mill for analysis of the soil organic matter (SOM), available phosphorus (AP), available potassium (AK), and available nitrogen (AN) contents.
2.3.3 Assessing supporting services based on vegetation traits
To quantify the vegetation characteristics, we harvested the aboveground biomass (AGB) in three repeated sub-plots (each 1 m × 1 m) at each plot, with similar topography and exposure to sunlight and with the sub-plots separated by every 10 m. All living vascular plants in each quadrat were sorted according to species. Subsequently, the plant height, vegetation cover, number of individuals, and density (no. individuals per m2) were determined. AGB was determined by clipping the plants at ground level, and was measured after oven-drying at 65±5°C for 48 h. The proportion of edible biomass was determined based on indigenous knowledge of the species that could be consumed by the local livestock; this proportion equaled AGB for all edible species divided by total AGB.
The grassland production data (AGB and the proportion of edible biomass) were used directly to indicate supporting services for primary production. In addition, we calculated 3 diversity indicators to represent the habitat ecosystem service:
The Shannon-Wiener index (H) was calculated as follows (Bakelaar and Odum, 1978):
\[H=-\sum\limits_{i=1}^{s}{({{P}_{i}}ln{{P}_{i}})}\ (1) \]
where S is the number of species and Pi is the relative importance of species i (its proportion of the total number of species). The relative importance of species is calculated as follows:
\[{{P}_{i}}={{{N}_{i}}}/{N}\ (2) \]
where Ni is the number of individuals of species i, and N is the total number of individuals of all species in the quadrat.
The Margalef index (D) was calculated as follows:
\[D=(S-1)/\ln N\ (3) \]
The Pielou index (E) was calculated as follows:
\[E=\frac{H}{\ln (S)}\ (4) \]

3 Results and discussion

3.1 Provisioning services that support herder livelihoods

Grasslands produce three main products that sustain the livelihood of herders: meat (mutton and beef), fodder (grass), and biofuel (dry dung). All three goods are directly related to the number of livestock, and the results therefore differed greatly among the three areas due to the different numbers of livestock per household (Table 4). In Hulun Buir (meadow steppe), herding of sheep (an average of 52 per household) and cattle (18 per household) was the major economic activity. A smaller number of cattle (an average of 4.2 per household) andsheep (2.4 per household) dominated economic activity in Xilin Gol (typical steppe). The productivity for livestock production per household in Xinlin Gol was only around 10% of Hunlun Buir (76.3 per household vs. 8.8 per household). In Ordos (semi-desert steppe), a few cattle (an average of 0.8 per household) and sheep (2.4 per household) are raised, primarily for breeding. In Ordos, households chose to raise many smaller animals than in the other areas, such as goats (an average of 6.0 per household) and chickens (16.9 per household). This seems to be a pragmatic response to government initiatives that greatly reduce the consumption of fodder from ecosystems to prevent further degradation of the semi-desert steppe. The results of household survey show that dry dung from livestock was an important biofuel; it was widely used in all three areas, but especially in Hulun Buir, where the annual per capita consumption was 2878.6 kg. The high consumption of dried dung can be attributed to the higher numbers of sheep and cattle. Herders used biofuel to meet the needs of daily life, including cooking, heating, and heating bath water. Due to the great reduction in the number of livestock in response to government policies to reduce grazing pressure on the ecosystem, with especially severe reductions in Xilin Gol and Ordos, dry dung cannot satisfy the household demand so households use more new forms of energy (e.g. coal, electricity) instead of dung. Table 5 shows how the ecosystem services differed among the three regions and changed as a function of the intensity of grassland use. Due to the government’s conservation policies, the no use and recovery grassland utilization patterns have totally lost their provisioning services to herders. The intensive use pattern has the highest value of provisioning services, followed by the moderate and light use patterns.
Table 4 Household consumption of provisioning services
Consumptions Study site a
Hulun Buir
Xilin Gol
Livestock (no. per household, % of total)
Sheep 52.0 (68.2) 2.4 (27.0) 2.4 (8.9) 18.0 (49.5)
Goats 3.2 (4.2) 0.2 (2.2) 6.0 (22.3) 3.2 (8.8)
Cattle 18.0 (23.6) 4.2 (47.2) 0.8 (3.0) 7.3 (20.1)
Chickens 3.0 (3.9) 2.0 (22.5) 16.9 (62.8) 7.5 (20.6)
Pigs 0.1 (0.1) 0.1 (1.1) 0.8 (3.0) 0.4 (1.1)
Total livestock 76.3 (100) 8.8 (100) 26.9 (100) 37.3 (100)
Meat (kg per capita per year, % of total)
Mutton-beef 97.2 (76.3) 65.6 (82.5) 35.7 (39.5) 65.3 (66.4)
Other meatb 30.1 (23.6) 13.9 (17.5) 54.7 (60.5) 33.1 (33.6)
Total meat 127.3 (100) 79.5 (100) 90.4 (100) 98.4 (100)
Fuel (per capita per year)
Dry dung (kg) 2878.6 265.2 199.4 1407.5
Coal (kg) 2063.6 690.6 922.4 1203.9
Electricity (CNY) 84.4 135.9 215.0 146.9

a n represents the number of households surveyed.

b Other meat includes pork, chicken, and fish.

3.2 Regulating services in the different grassland utilization patterns

3.2.1 Soil retention
Along the transect from northeast to southwest, soil bulk density increased (representing greater compaction), and SOM and the soil water content decreased (Table 6), indicating a decreasing ecological service for soil retention. Soil bulk density was the lowest in Hulun Buir (meadow steppe) and the highest in Ordos (semi-desert steppe). Soil water content was the highest in Hulun Buir and the lowest in Ordos, with a significant decreasing trend (P ≤ 0.05) along with decrease of precipitation and incease of temperature (Table 3). In Hulun Buir, the no use pattern had the highest soil water content (12%), and the intensive use pattern had the lowest soil water content (7%). As in the case of Hulun Buir, soil water content decreased with increasing intensity of grassland use. The soil water content also increased at the recovery sites compared with the used sites (Table 5, Appendix 2).
Table 5 Scores for ranking ecosystem in the three parts of the study area as a funnction of grassland utilization patterns(intensities)a
Previous research in Xilin Gol indicated that soil retention services were correlated with decreased desertification and ecosystem degradation, and that increased soil retention services may have been responsible for a higher soil water content. Inner Mongolia is characterized by an arid to semi-arid continental climate and strongly imfluenced by tempreture and precipitaition (Yu et al., 2003). Thus, water shortages are widely observed. From 2014 statistics, the region’s total water resources were 412.1×109 m3, and have decreased at an average rate of 5% per year since the 1990s (IMSY, 2015). Chinese statistics suggest that desertification caused by drought is the most frequent meteorological disaster in the study area (IMSB, 2013). The drought mainly occurs between May and September, the most inportant period for grass growth.
Table 6 Differences in mean soil properties among the three parts of the study area (AK, available potassium; AN, available nitrogen; AP, available phosphorus; SOM, soil organic matter)
Site Soil bulk density (g/kg) SOM (g/kg) Soil water content (%)
Average S.E. Average S.E. Average S.E.
Hulun Buir (meadow steppe) 3.40 0.35 24.98 17.23 10.04 4.47
Xilin Gol (typical steppe) 4.50 0.59 23.4 12.68 5.22 4.65
Ordos (semi-desert steppe) 4.60 0.26 13 3.24 4.52 2.12
Site AN (mg/kg) AP (mg/kg) AK (mg/kg)
Average S.E. Average S.E. Average S.E.
Hulun Buir 114.18 31.63 4.1 1.17 130.29 9.14
Xilin Gol 64.94 33.94 3.11 0.54 93.50 20.11
Ordos 24.10 15.31 3.24 0.46 44.4 30.88
Site Margalef index
(species richness)
Shannon-Wiener index
(species diversity)
Pielou index
(species evenness)
Average S.E. Average S.E. Average S.E.
Hulun Buir 3.83 1.87 1.87 0.82 0.61 0.21
Xilin Gol 2.20 0.55 1.29 0.30 0.51 0.14
Ordos 2.00 0.89 1.92 1.31 0.58 0.27

S.E: standard error

3.2.2 Soil nutrients
Soil nutrient contents (SOM, AN, AP, and AK) represented nutrient regulation services. AK and AN were the highest in Hulun Buir (meadow steppe) and the lowest in Ordos (semi-desert steppe), which showed a significant decreasing trend (P≤0.05) along this transect (Table 6). SOM and AP also decreased along this transect, but the trend was not significant (P≥0.05). As was the case for soil retention services, the soil nutrient regulating service decreased in strength with increasing intensity of grassland use (Table 5). SOM, AN, AP and AK were the highest with no use in all three regions, but showed little difference between light and moderate use patterns in Xilin Gol (typical steppe). Ordos had fewer grassland use patterns, and the highest SOM, AN, AP, and AK values were found under the recovery patterns or no use. This may be because Ordos is one of the earliest demonstration sites for the grassland restoration project launched around 2000 in Inner Mongolia.
Grazing intensity is one of the factors that most strongly influence the regulating services as a result of the changes it causes in soil properties. Trampling by grazing animals increases soil bulk density and the mechanical resistance to penetration, and therefore decreases porosity, water infiltration, and aggregate stability (Evans et al., 2012). Zhou et al. (2010) reported that grazing and trampling by livestock caused deterioration of soil physical properties (e.g. soil bulk density) and increased soil vulnerability to erosion. Our results for regulating services show that soil properties (water content, SOM, and available nutrients) improve with decreasing intensity of grassland use. These results confirm that maintaining grazier densities at or below grassland carrying capacity will improve soil-related ecosystem services in the grassland of northern China, as has been suggested by Eastwood et al. (2013).

3.3 Supporting services in different utilization patterns

3.3.1 Primary production
Primary production is a fundamental ecosystem service for the whole ecosystem, and is closely related to other ecosystem services such as provisioning services. Meadow steppe (Hulun Buir), typical steppe (Xilin Gol), and typical steppe (Ordos) produced different amounts of AGB due to differences in their geographic characteristics (such as temperature, precipitation and soil type, and shows gradient decreasing trend from Hulun Buir to Ordos); AGB was the highest in Hulun Buir (meadow steppe) and the lowest in Ordos (semi-desert steppe) (Table 6). In general, the proportion of edible biomass decreased with decreasing precipitation and increasing intensity of grassland use (Rook et al., 2004; Yan et al., 2012). The highest values of AGB were found in the moderate use pattern in Hulun Buir and the light use pattern in Xilin Gol. The lowest AGB in Hulun Buir was found in the intensive use pattern. Our results therefore support previous research of Rook et al. (2004) and Yan et al. (2012) in which grazing does not inevitably degrade an ecosystem, and may actually increase its supporting ecosystem services if it occurs at an intensity below the carrying capacity. The proportion of edible biomass was low in the recovery pattern, at only 23% in Xilin Gol and 44% in Ordos (Table 5, Appendix 2). The AGB of recovery site in Xilin Gol was the lowest, while that in Ordos were the highest. This is because Ordos has implemented the restoring treatments for 7-10 years, while Xilin Gol was only 5 years.
3.3.2 Habitat
Table 6 shows that habitat services were greater in the meadow steppe (Hulun Buir) than in the typical steppe (Xilin Gol) and semi-desert steppe (Ordos). One of the most important limiting factors is the geographic condition (e.g. temperature and precipitation) besides the utilization patterns of grasslands.
Under the different grassland utilization patterns, diversity in Hulun Buir was highest under light use, followed by moderate use, and then decreased sharply with increasing intensive use (Table 5, Appendix 3). However, the species richness (Margalef index) and evenness (Pielou index) in Hulun Buir were both the highest in the moderate use pattern, with values slightly higher than those in the light use pattern. Unlike in Hulun Buir, the species diversity and evenness of grassland in Xilin Gol decreased with utilization intensity increasing from light to moderate use. This means that the typical steppe (Xilin Gol) is more vulnerable than the meadow steppe to intensive use of the grassland. In Ordos, grazing was restricted more than in the other areas, so there was little difference in diversity among the different intensities of grassland use.
In summary, the supporting services in Hulun Buir decreased with increasing utilization intensity, which agrees with the results of Medina-Roldan et al. (2012), who found that grassland biomass production and biodiversity decreased in grazing areas because of overgrazing. In the present study, the proportion of edible biomass was relatively low at the recovery sites, although the diversity and evenness of the grassland were enhanced by conservation activities. Our results show that AGB and the three diversity indicators did not always follow a gradient of increasing intensity of grassland use in Inner Mongolia. For instance, the highest values of AGB and the Shannon-Wiener index were observed in the moderate use pattern in Hulun Buir and the light one in Xilin Gol. Xu et al. (2013) found that moderate grazing had positive effects on seedling recruitment and vegetation diversity, but that heavy grazing may alter community succession by affecting recruitment patterns.

3.4 Ranking of ecosystem services under different grassland utilization patterns

The results of our ranking of ecosystem services under different grassland utilization patterns (Table 5) show large spatial variation among the three types of grasslands in their representative areas. In Hulun Buir (meadow steppe), the moderate use pattern had the highest total score (i.e., the highest sum of the scores for provisioning, regulating, and supporting services), followed by the no use pattern; these use patterns therefore provided the highest overall ecosystem services values. The lowest values were found for intensive use. In Xilin Gol (typical steppe), the no use pattern had the highest total score, followed by the light use pattern, and these patterns therefore provided the highest overall service values; the recovery pattern produced the lowest rank score, and thus the lowest services. In contrast, the rank score in Ordos (semi-desert steppe) was the highest for no use, followed by recovery, but the scores did not differ greatly among the no use and recovery patterns.
Our data suggests that natural conservation (no use) of grasslands should be encouraged because it helps to deliver the greatest quantity of ecosystem services. However, the evidence for this argument is weaker than expected, and is sometimes equivocal. For example, the agricultural provisioning services (food, fuel, and fodder) tended to decrease with decreasing intensity of grassland use in Inner Mongolia. Eigenbrod et al. (2010) also found that protected areas in England have high levels of biodiversity and carbon storage, but low levels of recreation and agriculture services. At a European scale, Burkhard et al. (2012) looked at the association between the demand for ecosystem services and different CORINE land cover classes ( about.htm), and found that habitat classes that were important for conservation, such as peat bogs and natural grassland, ranked highly for their supply of regulating services, but ranked low in terms of their provisioning services. Our results of ranking ecosystem services show that the ecosystem services can be improved after 7-10 years grassland restoration. The previous research of Shan et al. (2008) also found that after the utilization of grassland fencing, the service value of steppe was significantly increased by 29.11% and 53.62% after grass restoration for 9-10 and 12-13 years. Our results also indicate that suitable use of grasslands can be achieved by considering differences in the resilience and capacities of different grassland types, thereby offering more effective ways to protect the grassland ecosystems. For instance, the meadow steppe has high resilience and tolerance of human activities, so the moderate use pattern can be applied in this region. In contrast, fragile ecosystems such as the semi-desert steppe in Ordos should be protected against anything more than light use.

4 Conclusions

For sustainable management of ecosystems to provide services, it is necessary to analyze both the ecological and socio-economic elements of the ecosystem, since complex interdependencies between humans and ecosystems strongly affect the provision of ecosystem services. Our analysis shows how we can quantitatively account for a greater amount of ecosystem services. This research provides important insights into differences among ecosystems in their ability (such as precipitation, temperature and soil type) to tolerate human disturbance (different degrees of grassland utilization patterns).
Our results demonstrate the value of a more holistic approach to the management of grasslands such as those of Inner Mongolia. Specifically, they reveal that the optimal utilization intensity differs among the study sites, with the meadow steppe (in Hulun Buir) being able to tolerate a higher level of disturbance from human activities (moderate use of grassland) than the other grasslands (light use or no use) and the semi-desert steppe (in Ordos) being able to tolerate the least disturbance (no use or recovery). Our results also show how grassland utilization for livestock grazing had significant ecological consequences (decrease of ecosystem services), but there was an important interaction between the geographic condition, grassland type and utilization intensity. There were also trade-offs that must be considered. For example, meadow steppe, the ability (e.g. highest precipitation over 300 mm/year compared with other areas around 200 mm/year) to tolerate a higher grazing intensity before ecosystem services decreased allows the grassland to provide a greater quantity of provisioning services at the cost of decreased regulating and supporting services. And the grassland restoration needs 7-10 yeas at least. In the future research, it will be necessary to find ways to identify the key factors that determine these trade-offs so that managers can focus on optimizing those factors. And more field research is encouraged in the future.
Appendix 1 List of potential ecosystem services for assessment based on the results of our literature review
Service/functions Services de Groot et al. (2002) MEA (2005)
Food X X
Raw material X
Genetic resources X
Fresh water X
Fuel X
Refugium functions X
Nursery X
Primary production X
Maintenance of genetic diversity X
Gas regulation X X
Climate regulation X X
Pollination X
Water regulation X
Water supply X
Soil retention X
Nutrient regulation X
Disturbance prevention X
Biological control X X
Water purification X
Aesthetic information X X
Recreation X X
Spiritual and historic information X X
Cultural and artistic information X
Science and education X X
Appendix 2 Soil properties as a function of study region and land utilization intensity. Abbreviations: AK, available potassium; AN, available nitrogen; AP, available phosphorus; SOM, soil organic matter
Appendix 3 Vegetation traits as a function of the study region and utilization intensity. (A) Primary production supporting services (AGB, total aboveground biomass). (B) Habitat supporting services (biodiversity)

The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

Abson D J, Termansen M, 2011. Valuing ecosystem services in terms of ecological risks and returns.Conservation Biology, 25: 250-258.Abstract: The economic valuation of ecosystem services is a key policy tool in stemming losses of biological diversity. It is proposed that the loss of ecosystem function and the biological resources within ecosystems is due in part to the failure of markets to recognize the benefits humans derive from ecosystems. Placing monetary values on ecosystem services is often suggested as a necessary step in correcting such market failures. We consider the effects of valuing different types of ecosystem services within an economic framework. We argue that provisioning and regulating ecosystem services are generally produced and consumed in ways that make them amenable to economic valuation. The values associated with cultural ecosystem services lie outside the domain of economic valuation, but their worth may be expressed through noneconomic, deliberative forms of valuation. We argue that supporting ecosystem services are not of direct value and that the losses of such services can be expressed in terms of the effects of their loss on the risk to the provision of the directly valued ecosystem services they support. We propose a heuristic framework that considers the relations between ecological risks and returns in the provision of ecosystem services. The proposed ecosystem-service valuation framework, which allows the expression of the value of all types of ecosystem services, calls for a shift from static, purely monetary valuation toward the consideration of trade-offs between the current flow of benefits from ecosystems and the ability of those ecosystems to provide future flows.Resumen: La valoración económica de los servicios del ecosistema es una herramienta política clave para detener la pérdida de diversidad biológica. Se propone que la pérdida de la función del ecosistema y de los recursos biológicos en los ecosistemas se debe en parte al fracaso de los mercados para reconocer los beneficios que los humanos obtienen de los ecosistemas. La asignación de valores monetarios a los servicios del ecosistema a menudo es recomendada como un paso necesario para la corrección de tales fallas del mercado. Consideramos los efectos de la valoración de los diferentes tipos de servicios del ecosistema en un contexto económico. Sostenemos que el aprovisionamiento y la regulación de los servicios del ecosistema generalmente son producidos y consumidos de modo que los hace sensibles a la valoración económica. Los valores asociados con los servicios culturales del ecosistema se encuentran fuera del dominio de la valoración económica, pero su precio puede ser expresado por medio de formas de valoración ponderativa, no económica. Argumentamos que los servicios de soporte del ecosistema no tienen valor directo y que las pérdidas de tales servicios se pueden expresar en términos de los efectos de su pérdida sobre el riesgo para el aprovisionamiento de los servicios valorados del ecosistema que soportan. Proponemos un marco heurístico que considera las relaciones entre riesgos y beneficios ecológicos en el aprovisionamiento de servicios del ecosistema. El marco propuesto para la valoración de los servicios del ecosistema, que permite la expresión del valor de todos los tipos de servicios del ecosistema, requiere un cambio de la valoración estática, puramente monetaria, hacia la consideración de los pros y contras del flujo de beneficios que proporcionan los ecosistemas y la habilidad de esos ecosistemas para proporcionar flujos en el futuro.


Bakelaar R G, Odum E P, 1978. Community and population level responses to fertilization in an old-field ecosystem.Ecology, 59: 660-665.The effects of nutrient enrichment by 2 applications of N-P-K pebble fertilizer (November and April) on the plant community of an 8-year old-field successional ecosystem were studied in 2 adjacent 1-acre [=.4047 hectares] experimental plots in Georgia. Net primary production, standing crop biomass, turnover and dominance increased, while all components of diversity decreased as a result of the treatment. These responses generally support Odum's (1969) model of ecosystem development, if the assumption is that eutrophication should involve a @'set back@' in development to earlier (younger) stages of autogenic succession. However, species composition was not "set back" since species characteristic of earlier successional stages (i.e., Ambrosia) exhibited reduced importance in the treated areas, while dominants more characteristic of the 8-year stage increased in importance. Results of this study suggest that fertilization has its major effect through competition-altered changes in the organization of realized niches of primary producers. A few opportunistic species, already established in the community, expand their niches by preempting some niche space of subordinates, thus reducing overall diversity. At the population level, productivity and niche width were increased for the dominant, Solidago, but greatly reduced for Aster which was codominant in control plots. Some 21 species were stressed by the nutrient enrichment (in that their net production was reduced), but a positive response by 16 species produced an overall subsidy effect for the vegetation as a whole.


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Bennett E M, Peterson G D, Gordon L J, 2009. Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services.Ecology Letters, 12: 1394-1404.Ecosystem management that attempts to maximize the production of one ecosystem service often results in substantial declines in the provision of other ecosystem services. For this reason, recent studies have called for increased attention to development of a theoretical understanding behind the relationships among ecosystem services. Here, we review the literature on ecosystem services and propose a typology of relationships between ecosystem services based on the role of drivers and the interactions between services. We use this typology to develop three propositions to help drive ecological science towards a better understanding of the relationships among multiple ecosystem services. Research which aims to understand the relationships among multiple ecosystem services and the mechanisms behind these relationships will improve our ability to sustainably manage landscapes to provide multiple ecosystem services.Ecology Letters (2009) 12: 1394 1404


Brown A J, 1993. A review of soil sampling for chemical analysis.Australian Journal of Experimental Agriculture, 33(8): 983-1006.A review of soil sampling for chemical analysis is presented for farm paddocks, orchard blocks and experimental plots with relevance to Australian and New Zealand conditions. Basic principles concerning field variability and its determination, sampling equipment, sample handling and sampling techniques are given. Detailed examination of both published and unpublished data on spatial and temporal variation in cultivated and uncultivated soils is also provided. Deficiencies and conflicts in the database are highlighted and provide a basis for future work.


Burkhard B, Kroll F, Nedkov Set al.2012. Mapping ecosystem service supply, demand and budgets.Ecological Indicators, 21: 17-29.Among the main effects of human activities on the environment are land use and resulting land cover changes. Such changes impact the capacity of ecosystems to provide goods and services to the human society. This supply of multiple goods and services by nature should match the demands of the society, if self-sustaining human nvironmental systems and a sustainable utilization of natural capital are to be achieved. To describe respective states and dynamics, appropriate indicators and data for their quantification, including quantitative and qualitative assessments, are needed. By linking land cover information from, e.g. remote sensing, land survey and GIS with data from monitoring, statistics, modeling or interviews, ecosystem service supply and demand can be assessed and transferred to different spatial and temporal scales. The results reveal patterns of human activities over time and space as well as the capacities of different ecosystems to provide ecosystem services under changing land use. Also the locations of respective demands for these services can be determined. As maps are powerful tools, they hold high potentials for visualization of complex phenomena. We present an easy-to-apply concept based on a matrix linking spatially explicit biophysical landscape units to ecological integrity, ecosystem service supply and demand. An exemplary application for energy supply and demand in a central German case study region and respective maps for the years 1990 and 2007 are presented. Based on these data, the concept for an appropriate quantification and related spatial visualization of ecosystem service supply and demand is elaborated and discussed.


Cheng X L, An S Q, Li G Qet al.2001. The correlation between the desertification of grassland and the change of vegetation biomass in Erduosi. Scientia Silvae Sinicae, 37(2): 13-20. (in Chinese)The correlation between the desertification of the grassland and the changes of vegetation characteristics in Erduosi is reported in this paper. The results show that: in the desertification course of the grassland, the degradation pathway of the community is both from Stipa bungeana community → S. bungeana + died Artemisia ordosia community → S. bungeana + A. ordosica community → A. ordosica community → sandland and from A. ordosica community → A. ordosica + Cynanchum komarovii community → C. komarovii community → sandland. The Stipa bungeana community is the desert steppe community, the Artemisia ordosia community is the dominating community in the Erduosi sandland, and the Cynanchum komarovii community is the indicator community at the last stage in the desertification. As the Artemisia ordosia community degenerates, it will be replaced by either Stipa bungeana community or the Cynanchum komarovii community, and their habitats become from flowing sand dune to fixed sand dune to fixed sand dune with hard crust. The studies , of the flora , density and biomass of community, show that: the changes of the flora and density are characterized by the trends of their increasing firstly and declining afterwards, and the species number changes from 15 to 12 and to 17 species, and the density from 51.98 →31.12 → 62.76? ind.(tus.)/m 2 during the desertification from Stipa bungeana community to Artemisia ordosica community and to Cynanchum komarovii community. Because of the occasional species happening in considerable proportion, the flora and density of the communities have obviously seasonal changes, which shows that the flora and density are closely correlated with the simultaneous rainfall. The life form spectrum changes little: semi shrub occupies 13.3%, perennials 69.1% in Stipa bungeana community; semi shrub 8.3%, perennials 64.9% in the Artemisia ordosica community; and semi shrub 5.9%, perennials 64.8% in the Cynanchum komarovii community. The changes of the life form spectrum reveal that the degradation of vegetation is mainly caused by the alternating of the dominant species; from Stipa bungeana community → Artemisia ordosica community → komarovii community, the life forms of the dominants change from perennials to shrub and further to perennials. The biomass varies greatly with the range from 218.1 to 748.72 and to 155.6 g/m 2; in which the aboveground biomass changes from 34.8 to 365.5 g/m 2, the underground biomass changes from 120.8 to 382.2 g/m 2, the variations are also caused by main life form differences. The meso xerophyte gradually decreases with the strong xerophyte gradually increasing during the desertification of the grassland.


Castro A J, Martin-Lopez B, Lopez Eet al.2015. Do protected areas networks ensure the supply of ecosystem services? Spatial patterns of two nature reserve systems in semi-arid Spain.Applied Geography, 60: 1-9.61Ecosystem service supply is analyzed across Natura-2000 and RENPA networks.61Spatial delivery of four intermediate services and a final service is analyzed.61Protected areas supply slightly higher levels of services than non-protected areas.61Spatial trade-offs occur between the final and intermediate ecosystem services.61Non-protected areas represent gaps in the preservation of ecosystem services.


Crossman N D, Burkhard B, Nedkov Set al., 2013. A blueprint for mapping and modelling ecosystem services.Ecosystem Services, 4: 4-14.The inconsistency in methods to quantify and map ecosystem services challenges the development of robust values of ecosystem services in national accounts and broader policy and natural resource management decision-making. In this paper we develop and test a blueprint to give guidance on modelling and mapping ecosystem services. The primary purpose of this blueprint is to provide a template and checklist of information needed for those beginning an ecosystem service modelling and mapping study. A secondary purpose is to provide, over time, a database of completed blueprints that becomes a valuable information resource of methods and information used in previous modelling and mapping studies. We base our blueprint on a literature review, expert opinions (as part of a related workshop organised during the 5th ESP conference2 ) and critical assessment of existing techniques used to model and map ecosystem services. While any study that models and maps ecosystem services will have its unique characteristics and will be largely driven by data and model availability, a tool such as the blueprint presented here will reduce the uncertainty associated with quantifying ecosystem services and thereby help to close the gap between theory and practice.


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Deng X Z, Li Z H, Gibson J, 2016. A review on trade-off analysis of ecosystem services for sustainable land-use management.Journal of Geographical Sciences, 26(7): 953-968.Ecosystem services are substantial elements for human society. The central challenge to meet the human needs from ecosystems while sustain the Earth life support systems makes it urgent to enhance efficient natural resource management for sustainable ecological and socioeconomic development. Trade-off analysis of ecosystem services can help to identify optimal decision points to balance the costs and benefits of the diverse human uses of ecosystems. In this sense, the aim of this paper is to provide key insights into ecosystem services trade-off analysis at different scales from a land use perspective, by comprehensively reviewing the trade-offs analysis tools and approaches that addressed in ecology, economics and other fields. The review will significantly contribute to future research on trade-off analysis to avoid inferior management options and offer a win-win solution based on comprehensive and efficient planning for interacting multiple ecosystem services.


Du B Z, Zhen L, de Groot Ret al.2014. Changing patterns of basic household consumption in the Inner Mongolian grasslands: A case study of policy-oriented adoptive changes in the use of grasslands.The Rangeland Journal, 36(5): 505-517.Grassland ecosystems, as the basic natural resources in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, are becoming increasingly sensitive to human intervention, leading to deterioration in fragile ecosystems. The goal of this study was to describe the restoration policy-oriented adoptive changes to basic household consumption patterns of food, fuel, and water, and their spatial distribution by grasslan...


Eastwood A, Nijnik M, Brooker Ret al.2013. Nature Conservation and Ecosystem Service Delivery. Peterborough: JNCC Report No. 492.61Protected sites deliver more regulatory and cultural services than non-protected.61Protection had no significant effect on provisioning services.61Differences in ES between case studies highlight the importance of local context.61Specific management objectives of protected sites are key to determining ES delivery.


Eigenbrod F, Armsworth P R, Anderson B Jet al.2010. The impact of proxy-based methods on mapping the distribution of ecosystem services.Journal of Applied Ecology, 47: 377-385.1. An increasing number of studies are examining the distribution and congruence of ecosystem services, often with the goal of identifying areas that will provide multiple ecosystem service ' hotspots'. However, there is a paucity of data on most ecosystem services, so proxies (e. g. estimates of a service for a particular land cover type) are frequently used to map their distribution. To date, there has been little attempt to quantify the effects of using proxies on distribution maps of ecosystem services, despite the potentially large errors associated with such data sets. 2. Here, we provide the first study examining the effects of using proxies on ecosystem service maps and the degree of spatial congruence of these maps with primary data, using England as a case study. 3. We show that land cover based proxies provide a poor fit to primary data surfaces for biodiversity, recreation and carbon storage, and that correlations between ecosystem services change depending on whether primary or proxy data are used for the analyses. 4. The poor fit of proxies to primary data was also evident when we selected hotspots of single ecosystem services, and consistency between raw and modelled surfaces was extremely low when considering the locations that were coincident hotspots for multiple services. 5. Synthesis and applications. Proxies may be suitable for identifying broad-scale trends in ecosystem services, but even relatively good proxies are likely to be unsuitable for identifying hotspots or priority areas for multiple services.


Evans C R W, Krzic M, Broersma Ket al.2012. Long-term grazing effects on grassland soil properties in southern British Columbia.Canadian Journal of Soil Science, 92(4): 685-693.Evans, C. R. W., Krzic, M., Broersma, K. and Thompson, D. J. 2012. Long-term grazing effects on grassland soil properties in southern British Columbia. Can. J. Soil Sci. 92: 685-693. Although grazing effects on soil properties have been evaluated on various temperate grasslands, no study has dealt with these effects in the southern interior of British Columbia. The objective of this study was to determine the effects of spring versus fall season grazing as well as grazing [at a moderate rate of 0.6 animal unit months (AUM) ha(-1)] versus non-grazing by beef cattle on selected soil properties. Effects were determined 20 and 30 yr after the establishment of the field experiment. Soil properties were determined for the 0- to 7.5-cm, 7.5- to IS-cm. and 15- to 30-cm depths. In comparison with fall grazing, spring grazing had greater soil bulk density, greater mechanical resistance within the top 15 cm of the soil profile, higher pH, and lower polysaccharides. This was true for both 20 and 30 yr of treatment. Grazing effects on aggregate stability were observed only after 30 yr with spring grazing leading to a more stable structure with a mean weight diameter (MWD) of 1.5 mm and 32% and 10% of aggregates in the 2- to 6-mm and 1- to 2-mm size fractions, respectively, compared with a MWD of 1.0 mm and 20% and 6% under fall grazing. Greater soil bulk density, mechanical resistance, and pH were observed under the grazed treatment relative to the control without grazing, but as we used a moderate stocking rate the impacts were not as great as in previous studies, which used heavy stocking rates. Our findings show that long-term grazing at a moderate stocking rate of 0.6 AUM ha(-1) did not have critical detrimental effects on soil properties as some land managers and ranchers have suggested.


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Ji S J, Geng Y, Li D Fet al.2009. Plant coverage is more important than species richness in enhancing aboveground biomass in a premature grassland, northern China.Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 129: 491-496.To clarify what is the major control over aboveground biomass in a premature grassland under a condition of rainfall fluctuation, we conducted a 2-year experiment in a grassland of northern China. We manipulated species richness (4, 8 and 14 species) nested within a simulated rainfall gradient and we examined the relationships at different community organization levels. Previous experimental studies showed that species richness influenced aboveground biomass positively. Our results were not quite consistent with those revealed in mature grasslands. We found that, instead of species richness, plant coverage tended to be a critical factor that enhanced aboveground biomass at both the community level and the plant functional group level. In addition, different plant functional groups demonstrated different patterns in terms of the relationship. Our results also indicated that, in a premature grassland, plant communities with higher species richness were more stable, in terms of aboveground biomass, than those with lower species richness, offering an agreement with those revealed in mature grasslands. Our findings shed light on the development of man-made grasslands: higher plant coverage in a newly established grassland can significantly improve aboveground biomass.


John R, Chen J Q, Lu Net al.2008. Predicting plant diversity based on remote sensing products in the semi-arid region of Inner Mongolia.Remote Sensing of Environment, 112(5): 2018-2032.Changes in species composition and diversity are the inevitable consequences of climate change, as well as land use and land cover change. Predicting species richness at regional spatial scales using remotely sensed biophysical variables has emerged as a viable mechanism for monitoring species distribution. In this study, we evaluate the utility of MODIS-based productivity (GPP and EVI) and surface water content (NDSVI and LSWI) in predicting species richness in the semi-arid region of Inner Mongolia, China. We found that these metrics correlated well with plant species richness and could be used in biome- and life form-specific models. The relationships were evaluated on the basis of county-level data recorded from the Flora of Inner Mongolia, stratified by administrative (i.e., counties), biome boundaries (desert, grassland, and forest), and grouped by life forms (trees, grasses, bulbs, annuals and shrubs). The predictor variables included: the annual, mean, maximum, seasonal midpoint (EVImid), standard deviation of MODIS-derived GPP, EVI, LSWI and NDSVI. The regional pattern of species richness correlated with GPPSD (R2=0.27), which was also the best predictor for bulbs, perennial herbs and shrubs (R2=0.36, 0.29 and 0.40, respectively). The predictive power of models improved when counties with >50% of cropland were excluded from the analysis, where the seasonal dynamics of productivity and species richness deviate patterns in natural systems. When stratified by biome, GPPSD remained the best predictor of species richness in grasslands (R2=0.30), whereas the most variability was explained by NDSVImax in forests (R2=0.26), and LSWIavg in deserts (R2=0.61). The results demonstrated that biophysical estimates of productivity and water content can be used to predict plant species richness at the regional and biome levels.


Kang L, Han X, Zhang Zet al. 2007. Grassland ecosystems in China: Review of current knowledge and research advancement.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 362(1482): 997-1008.Grasslands are the dominant landscape in China, accounting for 40% of the national land area. Research concerning China's grassland ecosystems can be chronologically summarized into four periods: (i) pre-1950s, preliminary research and survey of grassland vegetation and plant species by Russians, Japanese and Western Europeans, (ii) 1950-1975, exploration and survey of vegetation, soils and topography as part of natural resource inventory programmes by regional and national institutions mainly led by the Chinese Academy of Sciences, (iii) 1976-1995, establishment of field stations for long-term ecological monitoring and studies of ecosystem processes, (iv) 1996-present, comprehensive studies of community dynamics and ecosystem function integrating multi-scale and multidisciplinary approaches and experimental manipulations. Major findings of scientific significance in China's grassland ecosystem research include: (i) improved knowledge on succession and biogeochemistry of the semi-arid and temperate grassland ecosystems, (ii) elucidation of life-history strategies and diapause characteristics of the native grasshopper species as one of the key grassland pests, and (iii) development of effective management strategies for controlling rodent pests in grassland ecosystems. Opportunities exist for using the natural grasslands in northern China as a model system to test ecosystem theories that so far have proven a challenge to ecologists worldwide.


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Medina-Roldan E, Paz-Ferreiro J, Bardgett R D, 2012. Grazing exclusion affects soil and plant communities, but has no impact on soil carbon storage in an upland grassland.Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, 149: 118-123.We evaluated the impact of 7 years of grazing exclusion on vegetation and belowground properties related to soil carbon (C) and nitrogen (N) cycling in grazed, upland grassland in northern England. For this, we compared a landscape-level, moorland restoration project (grazing exclusion) with adjacent continuously grazed acidic grasslands to test whether changes in vegetation composition after restoration impacted on soil properties including soil C storage. Grazing exclusion significantly increased the proportion of dwarf-shrubs at the expense of graminoids. Despite high seasonal variability, this change in vegetation was associated with increased plant litter mass, soil moisture content and the ratio of dissolved organic to inorganic N, and reductions in rates of ammonium mineralisation, soil microbial activity, and microbial biomass N. Our observations suggest that grazing-exclusion as a restoration tool for upland habitats results in a slowing down of rates of C and N cycling. However, as yet, this has had no detectable impact on total C and N stocks in surface soil. Whereas increases in soil C and N stocks might be expected in the longer term, our results suggest that a certain level of grazing is compatible with the provision of ecosystem services such as soil C storage under traditional upland farming practices.


NDRC, 2014. “Opinions on improving the policy of returning grazing to grassland” is the latest guidance to implementing the policy of “returning grazing to grassland”, which Joint release by the National Development and Reform Commission, National Ministry of Finance and National Ministry of Agriculture (in Chinese).

Pan Y, Xu Z, Wu J, 2013. Spatial differences of the supply of multiple ecosystem services and the environmental and land use factors affecting them.Ecosystem Services, 5: e4-e10.61We study the spatial differences of multiple ecosystem services supplies.61Two indicators were used to qualify the spatial differences.61Precipitation and soil nitrogen constrain the multiple ecosystem services supplies.61Land use affects the ecosystem services tradeoffs.


Power A G, 2010. Ecosystem services and agriculture: Tradeoffs and synergies.Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365: 2959-2971.Agricultural ecosystems provide humans with food, forage, bioenergy and pharmaceuticals and are essential to human wellbeing. These systems rely on ecosystem services provided by natural ecosystems, including pollination, biological pest control, maintenance of soil structure and fertility, nutrient cycling and hydrological services. Preliminary assessments indicate that the value of these ecosystem services to agriculture is enormous and often underappreciated. Agroecosystems also produce a variety of ecosystem services, such as regulation of soil and water quality, carbon sequestration, support for biodiversity and cultural services. Depending on management practices, agriculture can also be the source of numerous disservices, including loss of wildlife habitat, nutrient runoff, sedimentation of waterways, greenhouse gas emissions, and pesticide poisoning of humans and non-target species. The tradeoffs that may occur between provisioning services and other ecosystem services and disservices should be evaluated in terms of spatial scale, temporal scale and reversibility. As more effective methods for valuing ecosystem services become available, the potential for 'win in' scenarios increases. Under all scenarios, appropriate agricultural management practices are critical to realizing the benefits of ecosystem services and reducing disservices from agricultural activities.


Prober S M, Thiele K R, Rundel P Wet al.2012. Climate adaptation in intact landscapes: A framework for managing change and resilience applied to the world’s largest temperate woodland.Climatic Change, 110: 227-248.

Raudsepp-Hearne C, Peterson G D, Bennett E M, 2010. Ecosystem service bundles for analyzing tradeoffs in diverse landscapes.Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States, 107: 5242-5247.A key challenge of ecosystem management is determining how to manage multiple ecosystem services across landscapes. Enhancing important provisioning ecosystem services, such as food and timber, often leads to tradeoffs between regulating and cultural ecosystem services, such as nutrient cycling, flood protection, and tourism. We developed a framework for analyzing the provision of multiple ecosystem services across landscapes and present an empirical demonstration of ecosystem service bundles, sets of services that appear together repeatedly. Ecosystem service bundles were identified by analyzing the spatial patterns of 12 ecosystem services in a mixed-used landscape consisting of 137 municipalities in Quebec, Canada. We identified six types of ecosystem service bundles and were able to link these bundles to areas on the landscape characterized by distinct social cological dynamics. Our results show landscape-scale tradeoffs between provisioning and almost all regulating and cultural ecosystem services, and they show that a greater diversity of ecosystem services is positively correlated with the provision of regulating ecosystem services. Ecosystem service-bundle analysis can identify areas on a landscape where ecosystem management has produced exceptionally desirable or undesirable sets of ecosystem services.


Rook A J, Dumont B, Isselstein Jet al. 2004. Matching type of livestock to desired biodiversity outcomes in pastures: A review.Biological Conservation, 119(2): 137-150.From a review of the literature, we conclude that the main mechanism by which grazing livestock affect biodiversity in pastures is the creation and maintenance of sward structural heterogeneity, particularly as a result of dietary choice. We identify lack of understanding of the currencies used by animals in their foraging decisions and the spatial scale of these decisions as major constraints to better management. We conclude that there are important differences between domestic grazing animal species in their impact on grazed communities and that these can be related to differences in dental and digestive anatomy, but also, and probably more importantly, to differences in body size. Differences between breeds within species appear to be relatively minor and again largely related to body size. We conclude that there is an urgent need to understand the genetic basis of these differences and also to separate true breed effects from effects of rearing environment. We also review the economic implications of using different animal types and conclude that there is a need for more research integrating these aspects with biodiversity outcomes. Copyright 2003 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


Shan G L, Xu Z, Ning F, 2008. Influence of exclosure year on community structure and species diversity in a pical steppe.Acta Prataculturae Sinica, 17(6): 1-8. (in Chinese)


Suškevics M, 2012. Legitimacy analysis of multi-level governance of biodiversity: Evidence from 11 case studies across the EU.Environmental Policy and Governance, 22: 217-237.

Swinton S M, Lupi F, Robertson G Pet al.2007. Ecosystem services and agriculture: Cultivating agricultural ecosystems for diverse benefits.Ecological Economics, 64: 245-252.Crop and rangelands are over 25% of the Earth's land area, and they are expanding. Agricultural ecosystems rely on a suite of supporting ecosystem services to provide food, fiber and fuel as well as a range of accompanying but non-marketed ecosystem services (ES). Ecosystem services from agriculture include regulation of water and climate systems, aesthetic and cultural services, as well as enhanced supporting services (such as soil fertility). Many of these ES are appreciated by people, but they lack markets, so they lack the incentives for provision that come with prices. For public policy decisions to take them into account, non-market valuation techniques are needed, such as travel cost, contingent valuation, hedonic valuation, and cost-based or factor-income approaches. This article offers an overview of ES from agriculture and non-market valuation methods as it introduces the articles in this special section on cosystem Services and Agriculture. Understanding how ecological functions generate ES is fundamental to management, but so too is understanding how humans perceive and value those services. Research is required both to design cost-effective incentives to provide ES and to measure which kinds of ES could provide the greatest overall welfare benefits to society. Agricultural ecosystems offer newly recognized potential to deliver more diverse ecosystem services and mitigate the level of past ecosystem disservices. This special section of Ecological Economics conveys both how these are becoming possible and the challenges to science and public policy design of turning that potential into reality.


Tabachnick B G, Fidell L S, 2007. Using Multivariate Statistics. 5th edn. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, Inc.

Xu Z, Cheng S, Zhen Let al.Zhen L , 2013. Impacts of dung combustion on the carbon cycle of alpine grassland of the north Tibetan Plateau.Environmental Management, 52: 441-449.Alpine grassland of Tibet is a frangible ecosystem in terms of carbon (C) emission. Yak dung is an important resident energy with about 80 % of yak dung combusted for energy in the north Tibetan plateau. This paper investigated the impact of dung combustion on the C cycle of the alpine grassland ecosystem in north Tibet, China. During the growing season of 2011, from a field survey and household questionnaires, the main impacts of dung collection for fuel on the C cycle of the ecosystem were identified. (1) The C sequestration and storage capacity, including the dung-derived C stored in soil and C captured by vegetation, decreased. The net primary production decreased remarkably because of the reduction of dung returned to soil. (2) In a given period, more C was emitted to the atmosphere in the dung combustion situation than that in the dung returned to soil situation. (3) The energy grazing alpine meadow ecosystem changed into a net C source, and the net biome production of the ecosystem dropped to -15.18 g C/m(2) year in the dung combustion situation, 42.95 g C/m(2) year less than that in the dung returned situation. To reduce the CO2 emission derived from dung use, the proportion of dung combustion should be reduced and alternative renewable energy such as solar, wind, or hydro energy should be advocated, which is suitable for, and accessible to, the north Tibetan plateau.


Xue Z C, Zhen L, 2018. Impact of rural land transfer on land use functions in western China’s Guyuan based on a multi-level stakeholder assessment framework. Sustainability, 10: (5):1376(1-21).To achieve sustainable rural development, it is necessary to simultaneously protect ecologically important land and efficiently use existing agricultural land. Land use functions (LUFs) are widely used to assess regional sustainable development. Guyuan is located in a typical hilly and gully region of western China, with ecologically fragile land. Rural land transfer (RLT) has been advocated to prevent abandonment of agricultural land and promote rational, effective utilization of the land. In this study, we used LUFs in a multi-level stakeholder assessment framework to integrate the opinions of all stakeholders in an evaluation of the impact of RLT on regional sustainable development. We employed the framework for participatory impact assessment, key informant interviews, and questionnaires to obtain data to support the development of scenarios to compare the impacts on LUFs. We found that RLT had positive impacts on each LUF in Guyuan, especially for the land-based production and food security LUFs. Importantly, the measures required to support RLT must vary among landforms and location conditions to successfully develop the LUFs and ensure sustainable development. We found that the integrated multi-level stakeholder assessment framework can comprehensively assess the impacts of land use measures on sustainable development and support regional land-use decision-making.


Yan Y, Hu Y, Yue Let al.2012. Plant diversity change with different land use type and land use intensity: Take Zhengxiangbai Banner as case study.Resources Science, 34(6): 1032-1038. (in Chinese)LUCC and the intensity is one of the main factors affecting change in plant diversity of grassland communities.Abundant recearch have promulgated that with the global climate change and human activities,the biodiversity has greatly influenced.The phenophase,behavior,distribution and the relationship between richness,population size and constracton of ecosystem have changed in different degree.As a important part of the terrestrial ecosystems,grassland ecosystem has been always the hot spot in different research field.In recent years,the study of plant diversity has got more and more scholars'attentions.So we choose the Zheng Xiang Bai Banner,the area of typical steppe and also is a typical region of Algriculture and pasture region,as the study area,to reveal the grassland plant diversity'distrbution of grazing land in different intesity and the ecologycal engineering area.By means of field survey and then combing to the LUCC data set,we study the grassland plant biodiversity's change with the LUCC and intensity's change in the agriculture and pasture region.The four key findings are as follows:First,the species numbers are reducing with the enhance of the land use intensity.Poaceae and frobs show the trend of first decrease then increase and decrease again.Composite plants show a trend of persisting declination.Leguminosae plants are first increasing and then decreasing.In the area of ecology construction,the both of total species number and diversity of plat communities is the lowest.Second,the importants value of species change with the different LUCC and the intensity.In the background sample,the leymus chinensis and Stipa krylovii have the highest value,but keep dropping with the strengthening of land use intensity.Concomitant species of the communities and the frobs'important value are increasing.While in the ecology construction area,the important value of eymus chinensis is the highest.Third,the samples of slightly and moderate used land have the highest diversity of plat communities,that of background sample is the second,and severe sample's diversity value is the lowest.In the sample of ecology construction area,the diversity is between the slightly,moderate used and background samples.Fourth,the similar index of plant community construction between slightly used and moderate used samples is the highest,that shows that there is no clear boundary between them.And that between ecology constriction sample and background sample is also high,this means that the Ecological protection engineering has made some progress.

Yu F F, Price K P, Ellis J et al.2003. Response of seasonal vegetation development to climatic variations in eastern central Asia.Remote Sensing of Environment, 87: 42-54.Meteorological records show that central Asia has experienced one of the strongest warming signals in the world over the last 30 years. The objective of this study was to examine the seasonal vegetation response to the recent climatic variation on the Mongolian steppes, the third largest grassland in the world. The onset date of green-up for central Asia was estimated using time-series analysis of advanced very high resolution radiometer (AVHRR) normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) biweekly composite data collected between January 1982 and December 1991. Monthly precipitation and mean temperature data (1982–1990) were acquired from 19 meteorological stations throughout the grasslands of the eastern Mongolian steppes in China. Our results showed that while the taiga forest north of the Mongolian steppes (>50°N) experienced an earlier onset of green-up during the study period, a later onset was observed at the eastern and northern edges of the Gobi Desert (40°N–50°N). Responses of different vegetation types to climatic variability appeared to vary with vegetation characteristics and spring soil moisture availability of specific sites. Plant stress caused by drought was the most significant contributor to later vegetation green-up as observed from satellite imagery over the desert steppe. Areas with greater seasonal soil moisture greened up earlier in the growing season. Our results suggested that water budget limitations determine the pattern of vegetation responses to atmospheric warming.


Zhang Q Y, Wu X H, Zhao D S et al.2013. Temporal-spatial changes in Inner Mongolian grassland degradation during past three decades.Agricultural Science & Technology, 14(4): 676-683.

Zhen L, Du B, 2017. Ecological footprint analysis based on changing food consumption in a poorly developed area of China. Sustainability, 9(8): 1323(1-18).

Zhen L, Ochirbat B,Lv Y et al.2010. Comparing patterns of ecosystem service consumption and perceptions of range management between ethnic herders in Inner Mongolia and Mongolia. Environmental Research Letters, 5: e015001(1-11).中国科学院机构知识库(CAS IR GRID)以发展机构知识能力和知识管理能力为目标,快速实现对本机构知识资产的收集、长期保存、合理传播利用,积极建设对知识内容进行捕获、转化、传播、利用和审计的能力,逐步建设包括知识内容分析、关系分析和能力审计在内的知识服务能力,开展综合知识管理。


Zhou Z C, Gan Z T, Shangguan Z P et al.2010. Effects of grazing on soil physical properties and soil erodibility in semiarid grassland of the northern Loess Plateau (China).Catena, 82(2): 87-91.Grazing animals provide a livelihood for farmers, but they may also produce adverse environmental effects. We investigated whether grazing leads to deterioration of soil physical properties that subsequently increases topsoil erodibility. We sampled three sites (an ungrazed grassland, a continuously grazed grassland, and a track trampled by stock) on the northern Loess Plateau of China. The bulk density, water content, proportion of stable aggregates, infiltration rate, and resistance to scouring were determined for each soil sample. The results showed that the track had the highest soil bulk density and the lowest soil water content, proportion of stable aggregates, infiltration rate, and ability to resist scouring. The ungrazed plots had the best results for these parameters, in terms of reduced erosion. Soil bulk density and the proportion of stable aggregates differed significantly with depth beneath the track. However, the effect of depth on water content, infiltration rate, and the soil resistance to scouring was not significant at any sampling site. The ability of the soil to resist scouring was negatively correlated with the soil's bulk density and positively correlated with the soil's water content, infiltration rate, and proportion of stable aggregates. Thus, soil physical properties played an important role in determining soil erodibility. Grazing and trampling by livestock therefore appear to cause deterioration of soil physical properties and to increase soil erodibility.