The University of Arizona

Perennial grass abundance along a grazing gradient in Mendoza, Argentina.

J.M. Gonnet, J.C. Guevara, O.R. Estevez

Abstract


The study analyzed the basal area and density of perennial grasses along a cattle grazing intensity gradient away from a water development. Several mechanisms explaining combinations of changes in basal area and density with increasing grazing intensity were proposed. There was a curve-linear gradient of decreasing utilization of grasses at greater distances from water, and that gradient declined at greater distances from water. Basal diameter and density of 8 grasses were recorded at 11 distances from water ranged from 0.1 to 4.6 km within 16, 1-m2 plots for each distance. Circular basal area for each species was derived from its mean basal diameter. Plant density was estimated counting each tussock for bunchgrasses and each tiller as an individual for the 1 rhizomatous grass. The abundance of basal area and density to the gradient of distance from water was analyzed for grasses grouped according to their selectivity by cattle (undesirable, preferred, desirable, and secondary preference) and for the major preferred grass, Chloris castilloniana Lillo & Parodi and the 2 undesirable grasses, Aristida inversa Haeck. and A. mendocina Phil. Distance from water was regressed separately on basal area and on density for each selectivity group and each individual species. Basal area of total, undesirable, and desirable grasses increased up to intermediate distances from water and decreased at sites farther from water. Basal area of both the preferred grasses combined and the major preferred species increased linearly with distance from water. Basal area of A. inversa showed the same trend as the undesirable grasses while basal area of A. mendocina showed no definite pattern with increasing grazing intensity. Basal area of secondary preference species showed no definite pattern with distance from water. Density of total and desirable grasses increased up to intermediate distances from water and decreased at sites farther from water. Density of preferred species combined and the major preferred grass increased linearly with distance from water. Density of the 2 undesirable grasses and the secondary preference grass showed no definite trend with increasing grazing intensity. The combined patterns of basal area and density across the grazing intensity gradient suggest that the expression of recruitment, mortality, and plant growth (or shrinkage) in relation to grazing intensity varies among species and at different levels of grazing intensity. However, controlled experiments are needed to decipher the relative contributions of grazing intensity, neighboring species composition, or vegetation patterns existing before the establishment of the livestock water in the patterns of abundance.

DOI:10.2458/azu_jrm_v56i4_gonnet


Keywords


Aristida;Chloris;Aristida inversa;Aristida mendocina;Chloris castilloniana;shrublands;basal area;population density;savannas;grazing intensity;range management;Argentina;botanical composition;beef cattle

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