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Effects of soil water regime and grazing on vegetation diversity and production in a hyperseasonal savanna in the Apure Llanos, Venezuela

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2004

Guillermo Sarmiento
Affiliation:
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Ecológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela
Marcela Pinillos
Affiliation:
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Ecológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela
Marta Pereira da Silva
Affiliation:
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Ecológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela
Dimas Acevedo
Affiliation:
Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Ecológicas, Universidad de los Andes, Mérida, Venezuela

Abstract

Soil water content and above-ground biomass accumulation, above 10 cm high, were measured monthly in a flooded savanna ecosystem under grazing pressure and under cattle exclusion, during two growth cycles. Near-to-the-ground and below-ground biomass were measured three times during this period. Besides, composition, species richness and diversity were obtained through a floristic inventory. Despite a relatively high floristic richness and diversity, Panicum laxum is the dominant species throughout the study area, while three other perennial grasses, Paspalum chaffanjonii, Leersia hexandra and Axonopus purpusii, also reach high values of cover and biomass. Each of them reacts specifically to flooding, drought and grazing conditions. This ecosystem shows a strongly seasonal behaviour, with primary production, mortality and decomposition sharply timed by soil relative water content. Both drought and water excess seem to limit plant production, even more during wet years when the savanna might remain flooded for up to 4 mo. Some structural and functional differences between the grazed and the protected systems are demonstrated, but under the actual, relatively low stocking rate, the grazed savanna produces as much forage as the ungrazed one.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
2004 Cambridge University Press

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