A state and transition model for the eastern Monte Phytogeographycal Province in Rio Negro

AI Kröpfl, VA Deregibus, GA Cecchi


We developed a functional model for a shrub steppe vegetation of the eastern Monte Phytogeographical Province in Río Negro (Argentina) with six stable states and 12 transitions, based on the woody encroachment degree, characteristics of the herbaceous layer and the soil surface, and biological crust cover. Information was obtained from letters of naturalists and travelers along the region since the late eighteenth century, reports of old settlers, and our own research work. On the Monte, different functional groups can be distinguished. Our work focused on the three most conspicuous to analyze the dynamics of the system: shrubs, grasses and biological crust. The shrub layer is only affected by large-scale disturbances (fire, mechanical clearing) which maintain the balance between grasses and shrubs in the system. Mechanical clearing with soil removal also causes a decrease in grass cover and vegetation diversity. This layer, however, is most frequently affected by intensive and continuous grazing, which reduces the occurrence of fires and shifts the equilibrium toward the shrubs. All disturbances in general deteriorate the biological crust that covers the soil, which offers situations of facilitation for the regeneration of the herbaceous layer. Grazing and mechanical clearing reduce soil cover and promote the development of soil compaction, which reduce water infiltration and germination and/or seedling establishment, and this creates deteriorated states difficult to reverse. Those states can also be produced by tillage for agriculture and stubble grazing. Some of the transitions that we describe can be favored through grassland management strategies, in order to reach higher states of pastoral value and reverse deteriorating situations.

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Phyton. International Journal of Experimental Botany. ISSN print 0031-9457 ISSN en line 1851-5657 Fundación Rómulo Raggio Gaspar Campos 861,  Vicente López, Buenos Aires, Argentina (C.P. 1638) Tel 54 11 4791-0868 / 4796-1456 revistaphyton@fund-romuloraggio.org.ar www.revistaphyton.fund-romuloraggio.org.ar