Projects in progress

Transition of the mega-herbivory in the altitudinal gradient of northwestern Argentina:

patterns, causal mechanisms, ecological consequences and scenarios for the optimization of the territory.

In this project, we will describe patterns, causal mechanisms and ecological consequences of livestock de-intensification in productively marginal areas of northwestern Argentina (NOA), exploring scenarios that allow directing this process towards lower costs in terms of agricultural productivity and greater benefits in terms of recovery of biodiversity and biomass. The general hypothesis of this project is that in non-agricultural areas of the NOA (most of the territory), extensive cattle ranching is the main productive use, which in a good part of the region (semi-natural systems) is decreasing in density as a consequence of socioeconomic changes (decrease in the active rural population, loss of competitiveness in relation to technician productions). This represents an opportunity to recover plant structure and biodiversity in different taxonomic groups and environments of the NOA through proactive territorial planning to maximize nature conservation in a compatible way with economic development. The most studied territorial changes have been deforestation and forest fragmentation and more recently, some studies have focused on the processes of forest expansion or “forest transition”, given by a de-intensification of agricultural use. At a global level, however, while the transformation of natural ecosystems to agricultural systems represents approximately 40% of the surface, livestock (cows, sheep, goats and horses) represents more than 95% of the biomass of large herbivore communities. This suggests that changes in herbivory are very important, however, they have been little studied. This project will focus on reducing this information gap in the NOA, a region that is particularly suitable for this study due to its environmental heterogeneity and the great extension of livestock. From a theoretical point of view, the project represents a unique analysis due to its scale of a process understudied on a global scale, but potentially very important in marginal regions for agriculture due to topographic and climatic factors. From the applied point of view, the project will provide inputs for the territorial planning of NOA, characterized by the highest levels of biodiversity in the country, high levels of rural poverty (frequently associated with livestock practices) and by processes of accelerated demographic changes and land use.

Responsible investigator H. Ricardo Grau

Funding Source: FONCYT

Responsible group: Ezequiel Aráoz, Gabriela Nuñez Montellano, Sofia Nanni

Collaborating group: Sofia Marinaro Fuentes, Carlos Navarro, Pedro Fernandez, Emiliano Matias, Ana L. Dip Yordanoff, Yohana G. Jimenez, Macarena Tasquer, Leandro Macchi, Romina D. Fernandez.