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1 February 2005 Effects of grazing on patch structure in a semi-arid two-phase vegetation mosaic
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Question What are the grazing effects in the spatial organization and the internal structure of high and low cover patches from a two-phase vegetation mosaic?Location: Patagonian steppe, Argentina.Methods: We mapped vegetation under three different grazing conditions: ungrazed, lightly grazed and heavily grazed. We analysed the spatial patterns of the dominant life forms. Also, in each patch type, we determined density, species composition, richness, diversity, size structure and dead biomass of grasses under different grazing conditions.Results: The vegetation was spatially organized in a two-phase mosaic. High cover patches resulted from the association of grasses and shrubs and low cover patches were represented by scattered tussock grasses on bare ground. This spatial organization was not affected by grazing, but heavy grazing changed the grass species involved in high cover patches and reduced the density and cover of grasses in both patch types. Species richness and diversity in high cover patches decreased under grazing conditions, whereas in low cover patches it remained unchanged. Also, the decrease of palatable grasses was steeper in high cover patches than in low cover patches under grazing conditions.Conclusions: We suggest that although grazing promotes or inhibits particular species, it does not modify the mosaic structure of Patagonian steppe. The fact that the mosaic remained unchanged after 100 years of grazing suggests that grazing does not compromize population processes involved in maintaining patch structure, including seed dispersal, establishment or biotic interactions among life forms.Nomenclature: Correa (1971–1984).Abbreviations: CSR = Complete spatial randomness; INTA = Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria.
Pablo A. Cipriotti and Martin R. Aguiar "Effects of grazing on patch structure in a semi-arid two-phase vegetation mosaic," Journal of Vegetation Science 16(1), (1 February 2005).[0057:EOGOPS]2.0.CO;2
Received: 9 March 2004; Accepted: 17 November 2004; Published: 1 February 2005

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