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An alternative rangeland management strategy in an agro-pastoral area in Western ChinaHua, L.; Yang, S.; Squires, V.; Wang, G. (Society for Range Management, 2015-03)Governance plays a key role in rangeland management. In China, all rangeland, including pastoral land and agro-pastoral land, is owned by the State. Since 1980, use rights have been granted to households by the Chinese government extending the household contract responsibility system (HCRS). But in the agro-pastoral areas of northwestern (NW) China, the rangeland degradation is more severe than that in pastoral areas. The HCRS is difficult to implement because the limited and fragmented grazing land cannot be contracted to individual households. Thus the pastures in the agro-pastoral areas are grazed as communal pastoral land and the rate of rangeland degradation has accelerated as livestock numbers have grown. Several measures have been introduced in an attempt to reverse this degradation trend, but most failed. This paper reports a 5-year comparison of three rangeland management regimens, including the national "Protecting rangeland by restricting grazing" (PRRG) project under the individual HCRS (PRRG under IHCRS), the Allied Householders Contract Responsibility System (AHCRS) program funded by the World Bank/GEF, and the free grazing on common pasture as the control area (CA) at Mayinggou Village, Yongchang County, Gansu Province in NW China. The results showed significant differences (P < 0.05) between AHCRS and the other two regimens (PRRG under IHCRS and CA) in terms of biomass of palatable forages, cover, and plant diversity index of vegetation but no significant difference (P > 0.05) between PRRG under IHCRS and CA. Reducing the number of livestock in AHCRS also resulted in increased revenue from the livestock turn-off rate compared with that in PRRG under IHCRS and CA. Therefore, AHCRS is a better alternative management regimen for rangelands in agro-pastoral areas. AHCRS can solve the overgrazing problem, maintain or improve household income, and potentially ensure a long-term sustainable rangeland management regimen in agro-pastoral areas in NW China. © 2015 Society for Range Management. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.