Short-term Effects of Grazing Exclusion on Net Ecosystem CO2 Exchange and Net Primary Production in a Pannonian Sandy Grassland

Using portable, non-destructive own developed chambers (d=60 cm) and infrared gas analyses, the in situ field investigation was performed to study the seasonal and inter-annual dynamics of the stand level CO2-flux and production of sandy grassland that has been extensively grazed for decades. Furthermore, NEE measurements and biomass samples were used to identify the initial effects of grazing exclusion on CO2 exchange, aboveground phytomass and potential plant productivity in years of significantly different precipitation levels. A considerable inter-annual variation in all of the studied parameters was found both in the non-grazed and grazed stands. As a result of the grazing exclusion the CO2 uptake potential of the non-grazed stand increased by 13% compared to the grazed stand. It was more significant in the extreme dry year (220%), however, in wet year slightly lower average carbon sequestration was detected at the non-grazed stand (-13%), than that of the grazed area. Significant carbon sequestration potential was only detected during wet periods in both stands. The rate of CO2 uptake was found to be nearly six times higher in the non-grazed stand in the wet year than in the previous extremely dry year. The drought in 2003 significantly reduced the CO2 uptake of both stands, leading to lower annual net primary production and potential plant productivity. The annual net primary production dropped by almost 40% in the extremely dry year but then it rose by nearly two and a half times in the subsequent year with adequate rainfall.

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