Publication Date: 2010.
Degraded grasslands resulting from intensive land use appear to be highly resistant to tree invasion due to interactions between land use, climate, grazing and fire. We describe long-term patterns of tropical montane forest regeneration into degraded grasslands and analyze their relationships with historical changes in rainfall, grazing and fire in Los Toldos valley (Northwest Argentina), cloud forest life zone (1600 m asl). We used dendrochronological techniques to reconstruct spatial and temporal patterns of Podocarpus parlatorei establishment (the dominant tree species in secondary forests) and grassland fires for the last 150 yr. We assessed current livestock spatial distribution along the valley through feces sampling. Inferred tree establishment patterns (i.e., considering age structure and mortality) were analyzed in relation to temporal and spatial patterns of grazing and fire derived from our own analyses and from government statistics, and to rainfall patterns derived from previous dendrochronological reconstructions. Current grazing intensity was higher close to the local township. Fire occurrence increased with periods of above-average rainfall (higher fuel productivity), and tended to increase with distance to township (less grazing). Tree establishment in grasslands was spatially associated with high grazing intensity and low fire frequency, and temporally associated with periods of high grazing intensity and below-average rainfall. Despite climatic and land-use changes leading to conditions potentially favorable for trees (i.e., more rainfall, less grazing), grasslands persist in this study area, likely due to the direct (saplings burning) and indirect (soil degradation and desiccation) effects of recurrent fires, enhanced by decreasing grazing and increasing rainfall. © 2009 by The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation.
Author affiliation: Carilla, Julieta. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas; Argentina. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán; Argentina
Author affiliation: Grau, Hector Ricardo. Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas; Argentina. Universidad Nacional de Tucumán; Argentina
Repository: CONICET Digital (CONICET). Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas