Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2020, Vol. 75 ›› Issue (11): 2396-2407.doi: 10.11821/dlxb202011009

• Land Use and Agricaltural Development • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Spatiotemporal evolution characteristics of livestock-carrying pressure in China and its implications for grassland ecosystem conservation pattern

HUANG Lin1(), ZHAI Jun2(), ZHU Ping1,3, ZHENG Yuhan1,3   

  1. 1. Key Laboratory of Land Surface Pattern and Simulation, Institute of Geographic Sciences and Natural Resources Research, CAS, Beijing 100101, China
    2. Satellite Environment Center, Ministry of Environmental Protection, Beijing 100094, China
    3. University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, China
  • Received:2019-09-09 Revised:2020-08-11 Online:2020-11-25 Published:2021-01-25
  • Contact: ZHAI Jun;
  • Supported by:
    The Second Tibetan Plateau Scientific Expedition and Research Program(2019QZKK0404);Strategic Priority Research Program of the Chinese Academy of Sciences(XDA20020401)


Being a key ecological security barrier and production base for grassland animal husbandry in China, the balance between grassland forage supply and livestock-carrying pressure in China's pasture regions directly affects grassland degradation and restoration, thereby impacting grassland ecosystem services. This paper analyzes the spatiotemporal variation in grassland vegetation coverage, forage supply, and the balance between grassland forage supply and livestock-carrying pressure in China's pasture regions from 2000 to 2015. We then discuss the spatial pattern of grassland ecological conservation under the impacts of grassland degradation and restoration, and livestock-carrying pressure. Over the last 16 years, the total grassland area in China's pasture regions decreased by 16,000 km2, with vegetation coverage degraded in 6.7% of grasslands but significantly restored in 5.4% of grasslands. The provisioning of forage by natural grassland mainly increased over time, with an annual growth rate of approximately 0.3 kg/hm2, but livestock-carrying pressure also increased continuously. The livestock-carrying pressure index (without any supplementary feeding) reached as high as 3.8. Apart from the potential livestock carrying capacity in northeastern Inner Mongolia and the central Tibetan Plateau, that in most parts of China's pasture regions is currently overburdened. Considering the actual supplementary feeding during the cold season, the livestock-carrying pressure index is about 3.1, with the livestock-carrying pressure mitigated in central and eastern Inner Mongolia. Assuming full supplemental feeding in the cold season, livestock-carrying pressure index will fall to 1.9, thus significantly alleviating pressure in Inner Mongolia and the Tibetan Plateau. Based on these data, we propose different conservation and development strategies to balance grassland ecological conservation and animal husbandry production in different regions, namely nature reserves, pastoral areas, semi-farming and semi-pastoral areas, and farming areas, according to prevailing patterns of grassland ecological protection.

Key words: grassland degradation and restoration, forage supply, livestock-carrying pressure, grassland ecosystem conservation, China's pasture regions