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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Evaluating the lingering effect of livestock grazing on functional potentials of microbial communities in Tibetan grassland soils


Background and aims: Livestock grazing is a widely practiced land-use regime that can impose lingering effects on global biogeochemical cycles. However, elucidating the mechanisms of related eco-processes, which are largely mediated by the microbial community, remains challenging. Methods: Here, we collected soil samples from two Tibetan grassland sites subjected to grazing in winter followed by a 3-month recovery. We then evaluated functional potentials of microbial communities via a metagenomic tool known as GeoChip 4.0. Results: Significant alterations were detected in post-grazing grassland soils, and further analysis showed that plant diversity was the best indicator of alterations in functional potentials. Relative abundances of labile C degradation genes decreased at the 3400-m site, but those of recalcitrant C degradation genes increased, which could be explained by the higher soil recalcitrant C input owing to their being substantially more forbs species at this site. Nitrification genes decreased at both sites, probably owing to increased soil moisture conducive to oxygen-limiting conditions. Relative abundance of denitrification genes increased at the 3200-m site, concomitant with increased N2O emissions. Conclusions: These results demonstrated that functional gene compositions of the microbial community were altered in post-grazing grassland soils, and linked to soil biogeochemical processes.

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