• Carbon Stocks and Fluxes in Rangelands of the Río de la Plata Basin

      Paruelo, José M.; Piñeiro, Gervasio; Baldi, Germán; Baeza, Santiago; Lezama, Felipe; Altesor, Alice; Oesterheld, Martín (Society for Range Management, 2010-01-01)
      Grasslands are one of the most modified biomes on Earth. Land use changes had a large impact on carbon (C) stocks of grasslands. Understanding the impact of land use/land cover changes on C stocks and fluxes is critical to evaluate the potential of rangeland ecosystem as C sinks. In this article we analyze C stocks and fluxes across the environmental gradients of one of the most extensive temperate rangeland areas: the R ́ıo de la Plata Grasslands (RPG) in South America. The analysis summarizes information provided by field studies, remote sensing estimates, and modeling exercises. Average estimates of aboveground net primary production (ANPP) ranged from 240 to 316 g C m-2 yr-1. Estimates of belowground NPP (BNPP) were more variable than ANPP and ranged from 264 to 568 g C m-2 yr-1. Total Carbon ranged from 5 004 to 15 008 g C m-2. Plant biomass contribution to Total Carbon averaged 13% and varied from 9.5% to 27% among sites. The largest plant C stock corresponded to belowground biomass. Aboveground green biomass represented less than 7% of the plant C. Soil organic carbon (SOC) was concentrated in the slow and passive compartments of the organic matter. Active soil pool represented only 6.7% of the SOC. The understanding of C dynamics and stocks in the RPG grasslands is still partial and incomplete. Field estimates of ANPP and BNPP are scarce, and they are not based on a common measurement protocol. Remotely sensed techniques have the potential to generate a coherent and spatially explicit database on ANPP. However, more work is needed to improve estimates of the spatial and temporal variability of radiation use efficiency. The absence of a flux tower network restricts the ability to track seasonal changes in C uptake and to understand fine-scale controls of C dynamics. 
    • Mycorrhizal Colonization Patterns Under Contrasting Grazing and Topographic Conditions in the Flooding Pampa (Argentina)

      Grigera, Gonzalo; Oesterheld, Martín (Society for Range Management, 2004-11-01)
      Arbuscular mycorrhizae (AM) can ameliorate the impact of disturbance on agroecosystem sustainability. The objective of this study was to describe mycorrhizal colonization patterns in contrasting grazing situations (exclosure and continuous grazing) and topographical positions (upland and lowland) in the flooding pampa (Argentina). We determined the mycorrhizal colonization of the community as a whole and of Dallis grass (Paspalum dilatatum Poir.), a highly palatable, dominant species. We characterized colonization by the proportion of root length occupied by fungi and their different structures. At the community level, there was higher total colonization in the grazed area than in the exclosure. In contrast, Dallis grass showed higher total colonization and higher proportion of vesicles and arbuscules in the exclosure than in the grazed area. For both levels, colonization was higher in the lowland than in the upland position. Differences were observed only in winter and spring, not in summer. Our results show that 1) continuous grazing is associated with an increase of mycorrhizal colonization at the community level and 2) community-level patterns of mycorrhizal colonization cannot be inferred from dominant species. To our knowledge, this is the first characterization of AM abundance at the plant community level under contrasting long-term grazing conditions in a subhumid grassland.
    • Pathways of Grazing Effects on Soil Organic Carbon and Nitrogen

      Piñero, Gervasio; Paruelo, José M.; Oesterheld, Martín; Jobbágy, Esteban G. (Society for Range Management, 2010-01-01)
      Grazing modifies the structure and function of ecosystems, affecting soil organic carbon (SOC) storage. Although grazing effects on some ecosystem attributes have been thoroughly reviewed, current literature on grazing effects on SOC needs to be synthesized. Our objective was to synthesize the effects of grazing on SOC stocks in grasslands, establishing the major mechanistic pathways involved. Additionally, and because of its importance for carbon (C) biogeochemistry, we discuss the controls of soil organic nitrogen (N) stocks. We reviewed articles analyzing grazing effects on soil organic matter (SOM) stocks by comparing grazed vs. ungrazed sites, including 67 paired comparisons. SOC increased, decreased, or remained unchanged under contrasting grazing conditions across temperature and precipitation gradients, which suggests that grazing influences the factors that control SOC accumulation in a complex way. However, our review also revealed some general patterns such as 1) root contents (a primary control of SOC formation) were higher in grazed than in their ungrazed counterparts at the driest and wettest sites, but were lower at sites with intermediate precipitation (<400 mm to 850 mm); 2) SOM C:N ratios frequently increased under grazing conditions, which suggests potential N limitations for SOM formation under grazing; and 3) bulk density either increased or did not change in grazed sites. Nearly all sites located in the intermediate precipitation range showed decreases or no changes in SOC. We grouped previously proposed mechanisms of grazing control over SOC into three major pathways that can operate simultaneously: 1) changes in net primary production (NPP pathway), 2) changes in nitrogen stocks (nitrogen pathway), and 3) changes in organic matter decomposition (decomposition pathway). The relative importance of the three pathways may generate variable responses of SOC to grazing. Our conceptual model suggests that rangeland productivity and soil carbon sequestration can be simultaneously increased by management practices aimed at increasing N retention at the landscape level.