Intra and inter-annual climatic conditions have stronger effect than grazing intensity on root growth of permanent grasslands

10.24072/pcjournal.54 - Peer Community Journal, Volume 1 (2021), article no. e43.

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Understanding how direct and indirect changes in climatic conditions, management, and species composition affect root production and root traits is of prime importance for the delivery of carbon sequestration services of grasslands. This study considers the effects of climatic variability and gradients of herbage utilisation by grazing on root production over the course of two years. The root and leaf traits of the plant communities were determined to detect their capacity to predict above- and below-ground net primary production, ANPP and BNPP, respectively. A long-term field experiment was used to compare the effects of abandonment and low (Ca-) and high (Ca+) grazing intensities (resulting in mean residual plant heights of 15.2 cm and 7.7 cm, respectively) induced by grazing rotations on upland fertile grasslands after 10 years of treatment application. Ingrowth cores and exclusion cages were used to measure, respectively, the root and shoot mass production several times each year and at an annual scale. The root and leaf traits of the communities were measured near the vegetations peak growing season. We observed strong seasonal root production across treatments in both a wet and a dry year, but the response to grazing intensity was hardly observable within growing seasons. In the abandonment treatment, the spring and autumn root growth peaks were delayed by approximately one month compared to the two cattle treatments, possibly due to a late plant canopy green-up induced by lower soil temperatures and an accumulation of litter. The BNPP was slightly lower in the abandonment treatment compared to the cattle treatments only during the dry year, whereas a decline of the ANPP in the abandonment treatment compared to the Ca+ treatment was observed during the wet year. In response to drought, which occurred during the second year, the root-to-shoot biomass ratio was stable in the cattle treatments but declined in the abandonment treatment. The higher allocation to root mass could benefit plant communities under drier conditions. Rotational grazing pressures and climatic condition variabilities had limited effects on root growth seasonality, although drought had stronger effects on the BNPP than on the ANPP. The stability of the root-to-shoot biomass ratio during the dry year evidenced a higher resistance to drought by grazed versus abandoned grassland communities.

Published online:
DOI: 10.24072/pcjournal.54
Picon-Cochard, Catherine 1; Vassal, Nathalie 2; Martin, Raphaël 1; Herfurth, Damien 2; Note, Priscilla 3; Louault, Frédérique 1

1 Université Clermont Auvergne, INRAE, VetAgro Sup, UREP, 63000 Clermont-Ferrand, France
2 Université Clermont Auvergne, VetAgro Sup, 63370 Lempdes, France
3 INRAE, UE1414, Herbipôle, 63122 Saint-Genès-Champanelle, France
     author = {Picon-Cochard, Catherine and Vassal, Nathalie and Martin, Rapha\"el and Herfurth, Damien and Note, Priscilla and Louault, Fr\'ed\'erique},
     title = {Intra and inter-annual climatic conditions have stronger effect than grazing intensity on root growth of permanent grasslands},
     journal = {Peer Community Journal},
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     doi = {10.24072/pcjournal.54},
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Picon-Cochard, Catherine; Vassal, Nathalie; Martin, Raphaël; Herfurth, Damien; Note, Priscilla; Louault, Frédérique. Intra and inter-annual climatic conditions have stronger effect than grazing intensity on root growth of permanent grasslands. Peer Community Journal, Volume 1 (2021), article  no. e43. doi : 10.24072/pcjournal.54.

Peer reviewed and recommended by PCI : 10.24072/pci.ecology.100073

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