Cover stories: recovering beauty

Our August cover image by Guiyao Zhou (East China Normal University) shows how livestock grazing activities potentially alter many ecosystem functions such as carbon sequestration. But these effects can be markedly regulated by the associated global change factors (e.g., warming, nitrogen addition and drought). Here Guiyao shares the story behind the cover image and the grassland ecosystem work it represents. 

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These photos were taken in Wayan mountain, a very beautiful alpine meadow located in northeast Tibetan Plateau. My friend, Miss Junxia Ding and her lab-members have established a long term ecological observation station (PI: Prof. Kelong Chen, Qinghai Normal University) to explore the effects of grazing and global climate change on ecosystems functions. Junxia told me that this region was once a charming place with green grass, fresh air and few livestock. Over the past decades, many tourists from all over the world have come here to enjoy its beauty each summer. Unfortunately, it is now very shocking to see that inappropriate livestock grazing has caused serious degradation and desertification problems. Furthermore, grazing effects can be enhanced or weakened by the associated global change factors, such as warming, nitrogen addition and drought. We are very sad to not see green grass here anymore, but just countless sheep and increasing bare land. As an ecological researcher, we have a great responsibility to record these changes and share them with more people. Therefore, there is an urgent need to develop more sustainable strategies to enhance grassland management. Only by doing this can we possibly recover its beauty again in the future.

All photos: Guiyao Zhou

Read the corresponding article, Interactive effects of grazing and global change factors on soil and ecosystem respiration in grassland ecosystems: A global synthesis, in issue 56:8 of Journal of Applied Ecology.

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