Jiangtao Hong

and 4 more

Soil pH is strongly associated with soil biogeochemical cycles and biodiversity in terrestrial ecosystems. GE has been widely adopted as an effective practice to restore degraded grasslands. However, the effect of GE on soil pH is still poorly understood and remains inconclusive. We synthesized data from 63 sites in the literature and 43 additional field sites and investigated the dynamics of soil pH following GE across China’s grasslands. Mean pH decreased 0.13 units with GE (mean pH was 8.15 and 8.02 for grazed and GE groups, respectively, p < 0.001). The pH of surface soil (0–20 cm) showed greatest decrease rates in GE grasslands, whereas that of deep soil (20–100 cm) had limited responses to GE. In general, the largest decrease in the rates of soil pH occurred after medium-term periods (5–15 years) of GE, whereas a smaller rate of change was found over short- (≤5 years) and long-term periods (≥15 years) of GE. Of the factors examined, the rate of soil pH change was negatively correlated to MAP, but had no significant relationship with MAT. The rate of soil pH change decreased linearly with RCC, RNC, RAC and RBC. Sedge-dominated grassland had higher pH decrease rates at 0–10 cm soil depth than grass-dominated grassland, whereas grassland dominated by forbs and shrub species showed the highest decrease in pH at 20–30 cm. Our results indicate that GE causes significant soil acidification, especially in surface soil and humid areas, which provides an important reference for future management of China’s grasslands.