• Fragmentation Status of Tall-Tussock Grassland Relicts in the Flooding Pampa, Argentina

      Herrera, Lorena P.; Laterra, Pedo; Maceira, Néstor O.; Zelaya, Karina D.; Martínez, Gustavo A. (Society for Range Management, 2009-01-01)
      Since European settlement vast areas of the tall tussock grassland dominated by Paspalum quadrifarium Lam. and Paspalum exaltatum J. Presl (‘‘pajonal’’ grassland) in the Flooding Pampa of Argentina were converted to croplands and short grasslands. With the use of Landsat satellite images, we analyzed current (1998-2000) cover and spatial integrity of the pajonal community, and compared it with a vegetation map made 50 yr ago (1956-1960). Six categories of land cover were adopted: crops, sown pastures, short grassland, pajonal, wetlands, and anthropogenic areas. With the use of metrics from FRAGSTATS, landscape pattern and composition were analyzed at two scales: 1) regionally, by comparing two edaphic domain areas with relatively low and high restrictions for agriculture (low-restriction domain [LRD] and high-restriction domain [HRD], respectively); and 2) at landscape scale, by comparing ten 22 500-ha randomly selected areas (landscapes) within each edaphic domain. Current relative cover of pajonal grassland (2 173 600 ha) was 32.5%, and similar values were obtained within each edaphic domain. However, the number of pajonal patches was higher and their mean patch size, the Euclidean nearest-neighbor distance among patches (degree of isolation), and their border regularity were lower in the LRD than in the HRD. At landscape scale, the mean size of pajonal patches diminished with the percent of agricultural land within both edaphic domains. The isolation among pajonal patches increased with percent of agricultural land in the HRD, whereas no relationship between the isolation of pajonal patches and percent of agriculture was found in the LRD. As suggested by comparison with past vegetation, current pajonal status mostly results from replacement of pajonal grassland by short grassland types, cultivated pastures, and annual crops (52% and 44% of previously occupied areas in LRD and HRD, respectively), but some expansion of pajonal grassland was also observed (10% and 4% of previously unoccupied areas in LRD and HRD, respectively).