Document Type


Publication Date



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography


In arid and semi-arid regions, grassland degradation has become a major environmental and economic problem, but little information is available on the response of grassland productivity to both climate change and grazing intensity. By developing a grazing module in a process-based ecosystem model, the dynamic land ecosystem model (DLEM), we explore the roles of climate change, elevated CO2, and varying grazing intensities in affecting aboveground net primary productivity (ANPP) across different grassland sites in Mongolia. Our results show that both growing season precipitation totals and average temperature exert important controls on annual ANPP across six sites over a precipitation gradient, explaining 65% and 45% of the interannual variations, respectively. Interannual variation in ANPP, measured as the ratio of standard deviation among years to long-term mean, increased from 9.5 to 18.9% to 23.9–32.5% along a gradient of high to low precipitation. Historical grazing resulted in a net reduction in ANPP across all sites ranging from 2% to 15.4%. Our results further show that grassland ANPP can be maintained at a grazing intensity of 1.0 and 0.5 sheep/ha at wet and dry sites, respectively, indicating that dry sites are more vulnerable to grazing compared to wet sites. In addition, precipitation use efficiency (PUE) decreased while nitrogen use efficiency (NUE) increased across a gradient of low to high precipitation. However, grazing resulted in a net reduction in both PUE and NUE by 47% and 67% across all sites. Our results indicate that seasonal precipitation totals, average temperatures and grazing are important regulators of grassland ANPP in Mongolia. These results have important implications for grassland productivity in semi-arid regions in Central Asia and beyond.

Source Citation

Dangal, S. R. S., H. Tian, C. Lu, S. Pan, N. Pederson, and A. Hessl. 2016. Synergistic effects of climate change and grazing on net primary production of Mongolian grasslands. Ecosphere 7(5):e01274. 10.1002/ecs2.1274


© 2016 Dangal et al. This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited



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