Three sites with both degraded alpine Kobresia meadow (DM) and adjacent mix-seeded perennial grasses pastures (MSP) in the headwater region of the Yellow River, Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau, were selected to investigate plant and soil organic carbon (SOC), total nitrogen (TN) and their isotope composition. The SOC and TN in the top soil layer to a depth of 10 cm were significantly affected by ploughing and planting mix-seeded perennial grasses. The SOC content in 0–10 cm soil layer of MSPs was 25.6%, 5.5% and 12.9% lower than those of DMs at the I-III sites, respectively, and the rate of OC density loss was 23.8, 14.5 and 18.2%, respectively. The soil TN content in 0–10 cm soil layer of MSPs was 16.6%, 2.2% and 9.4% lower than those of the DMs at three sites, respectively, and the TN density was 15.6, 10.6 and 15.3% lower than those of DMs, respectively. The plant and soil 13C values (-27.03‰, -25.16‰, respectively) suggest that the vegetation of both DMs and MSPs are C3 plant communities. The 15 N value in the soil (>4‰) was significantly greater than in plants (<2‰). No differences of either 13C or 15N abundance between MSPs and DMs at Site I and II, but were found at Site III, indicating that the effects were site specific. The rehabilitation of a degraded Kobresia meadow has a significant influence on the soil properties, SOC and TN. Caution should be taken in site selection before performing conversion.
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