Grazing exerts profound effects on grassland ecosystem service and functions by regulating species composition and diversity, and structuring community assembly worldwide. However, adaptions of phylogenetic diversity and phylogenetic community structure to long-term grazing disturbance remain poorly studied, especially for ecosystems distributed in extreme environments.
Here, we conducted an experiment with multigrazing intensities to explore the impacts of grazing disturbance on plant phylogenetic diversity and community structure in an alpine grassland of the Tibetan Plateau.
Grazing disturbance enriched plant species richness (SR), and stimulated species turnover from regional species pool, consequently changing community species composition. Under low intensities, grazing exerted no obvious effects on phylogenetic diversity and community structure, whereas communities changed from overdispersion to clustering under high grazing intensity. High grazing intensity resulted in stronger environmental filtering, which consequently selected those species with high resilience to grazing disturbance. The observed clustering structure was associated with the colonizing species which were closely related to resident species, and locally extinct species, and distantly related to residents. At the plant functional trait level, high grazing intensity increased species colonization largely by altering the effect of root depth on species colonization compared to light grazing. Our results highlight that solely utilization of SR and diversity cannot fully represent grassland communities responses to grazing. The effects of species turnover on community phylogenetic diversity and structure are entailed to be explored in the future grazing studies.