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      Grazing effect on grasslands escalated by abnormal precipitations in Inner Mongolia

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          Abstract

          Grazing effects on arid and semi‐arid grasslands can be constrained by aridity. Plant functional groups (PFGs) are the most basic component of community structure (CS) and biodiversity & ecosystem function (BEF). They have been suggested as identity‐dependent in quantifying the response to grazing intensity and drought severity. Here, we examine how the relationships among PFGs, CS, BEF, and grazing intensity are driven by climatic drought. We conducted a manipulative experiment with three grazing intensities in 2012 (nondrought year) and 2013 (drought year). We classified 62 herbaceous plants into four functional groups based on their life forms. We used the relative species abundance of PFGs to quantify the effects of grazing and drought, and to explore the mechanisms for the pathway correlations using structural equation models (SEM) among PFGs, CS, and BEF directly or indirectly. Grazers consistently favored the perennial forbs (e.g., palatable or nutritious plants), decreasing the plants’ relative abundance by 23%–38%. Drought decreased the relative abundance of ephemeral plants by 42 ± 13%; and increased perennial forbs by 20 ± 7% and graminoids by 80 ± 31%. SEM confirmed that annuals and biennials had negative correlations with the other three PFGs, with perennial bunchgrasses facilitated by perennial rhizome grass. Moreover, the contributions of grazing to community structure (i.e., canopy height) were 1.6–6.1 times those from drought, whereas drought effect on community species richness was 3.6 times of the grazing treatment. Lastly, the interactive effects of grazing and drought on BEF were greater than either alone; particularly, drought escalated grazing damage on primary production. Synthesis. The responses of PFGs, CS, and BEF to grazing and drought were identity‐dependent, suggesting that grazing and drought regulation of plant functional groups might be a way to shape ecosystem structure and function in grasslands.

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          Most cited references 45

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          A distance-based framework for measuring functional diversity from multiple traits

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            Ecology of a Grazing Ecosystem: The Serengeti

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              A Generalized Model of the Effects of Grazing by Large Herbivores on Grassland Community Structure

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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                bilcz@imu.edu.cn
                Journal
                Ecol Evol
                Ecol Evol
                10.1002/(ISSN)2045-7758
                ECE3
                Ecology and Evolution
                John Wiley and Sons Inc. (Hoboken )
                2045-7758
                22 July 2018
                August 2018
                : 8
                : 16 ( doiID: 10.1002/ece3.2018.8.issue-16 )
                : 8187-8196
                Affiliations
                [ 1 ] School of Ecology and Environment Inner Mongolia University Hohhot China
                [ 2 ] Department of Geography, Environment, and Spatial Sciences Center for Global Change and Earth Observations Michigan State University East Lansing Michigan
                [ 3 ] School of Natural Resources and the Environment The University of Arizona Tucson Arizona
                [ 4 ] School of Forest Resources University of Maine Orono Maine
                Author notes
                [* ] Correspondence

                Cunzhu Liang, School of Ecology and Environment, Inner Mongolia University, Hohhot 010021, China.

                Email: bilcz@ 123456imu.edu.cn

                Article
                ECE34331
                10.1002/ece3.4331
                6144992
                © 2018 The Authors. Ecology and Evolution published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.

                This is an open access article under the terms of the http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                Page count
                Figures: 4, Tables: 1, Pages: 10, Words: 6914
                Product
                Funding
                Funded by: National Key R& D Program of China
                Award ID: 2016YFC0500503
                Funded by: National Key Technologies R&D Program of China
                Award ID: 2013BAC09B03
                Funded by: National Natural Science Foundation of China
                Award ID: 31160476
                Funded by: National Science Foundation
                Award ID: 1313761
                Categories
                Original Research
                Original Research
                Custom metadata
                2.0
                ece34331
                August 2018
                Converter:WILEY_ML3GV2_TO_NLMPMC version:version=5.4.9 mode:remove_FC converted:19.09.2018

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