• Landscape heterogeneity and long-term animal production in Tierra del Fuego

      Cingolani, A. M.; Anchorena, J.; Collantes, M. B. (Society for Range Management, 1998-01-01)
      Grasslands of northern Tierra del Fuego sustain 1 sheep/ha and are very extensively managed, with flocks roaming freely in large paddocks (2,000-4,000 ha). This system requires knowledge of landscape-level constraints and influences upon production for decision making. On a typical sheep ranch we checked upland floristic gradients against 30-years records of animal production. Community types and landscape units were surveyed and mapped. Using gradient analysis techniques we obtained animal production differences at the landscape scale that were strongly related to a vegetation gradient associated with soil fertility. Extensive and strongly variable lithological mantles allowed expression of the fertility gradient at that scale. Landscapes with fertile soils and neutrophilous community types were best for sheep breeding. These landscapes produced a mean of 37% more lambs ha-1 yr-1 than lands with soils of intermediate fertility and slightly acidophilous community types, and 116% more lambs ha-1 yr-1 than lands with highly infertile soils and highly acidophilous vegetation. Contrarily, the soil moisture gradient, being mainly expressed at the topographic scale, was not related with sheep production records. A forage gradient which was identified behind the fertility gradient supported our findings. Poa spp., the main item in sheep diets, and other important forage species attained the highest covers in neutrophilous community types. With the range in proportion of lowlands present in this ranch (12 to 30%), no relationship was found between the percentage of hygrophitic vegetation in the landscape and animal production.