This study examined the 20-yr trend of natural restoration of a degraded rangeland ecosystem after disturbance in Heshan hilly land. The results showed that herbs and shrubs were the dominant plants in the community and only a small number of the shade-intolerant tree species had invaded, showing the characteristics of assembly of pioneer communities. The organic matter content, soluble nitrogen, available phosphorus and available potassium had recovered to the level of the local climax community. Part of the ecological functions such as water and soil conservation had also recovered. While the functions of water and soil conservation recovered first, more time was needed for productivity and other functions to completely recover, suggesting the idiosyncratic nature of different ecosystem variables in response to time and microclimate change. Particularly, nutrient cycling recovered very slowly by natural restoration and artificial plantation may be necessary to accelerate the restoration process. ?? 2007 Ecological Society of China.
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Natural restoration of degraded rangeland ecosystem in Heshan hilly land