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In Argentina, agriculture and settlement are increasingly fragmenting native grasslands

Strange-tailed Tyrant, © Ajejandro Di Giacomo

The grasslands in Argentina are a globally important centre of endemism for numerous species of fauna and flora but are becoming increasingly fragmented as they are converted to cropland, rangeland or settlement, with less than 3% of the original pampas remaining in a natural state.


Continuing fragmentation is a major threat to the remaining natural grasslands of Argentina, caused by expansion in government-subsidised private forestry. The grassland biome in Argentina originally comprised a vast mosaic of temperate steppes (pampas) and subtropical savannas (campos) spread across several major flood-plains (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998). These grassland regions are a globally important centre of endemism for numerous species of fauna and flora (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998, Stattersfield et al. 1998). About 60 grassland-dependent bird species occur in Argentina (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998), and 98 potential Important Bird Areas (IBAs) have been identified in the grasslands, especially in the campos (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 2000). However, these grasslands are also very suitable for agriculture, and as a result are probably the most threatened terrestrial biome in Argentina (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998, 2000). The great majority has already been converted to cropland, rangeland or settlement—less than 3% of the original pampas remain in a natural state (Roman 2000), and only 0.3% of the original grassland area of 470,000 km² receives any form of statutory protection (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998).

The remaining large blocks of once open and tree-less grasslands are being afforested with plantations of trees, usually non-native species of pine and eucalyptus (Krapovickas and Di Giacomo 1998), following land preparation that often involves road building and wetland drainage (Di Giacomo and Krapovickas 2001). Between 1995 and 2000, the area of such monocultures increased by more than 500% (Di Giacomo and Krapovickas (2001), with over 1,000 km² of grassland converted to plantations in 2001 alone (Laura 2002). Several potential grassland IBAs have already been destroyed, before their importance could be confirmed (Di Giacomo and Krapovickas 2001). Moreover, the negative impacts of tree plantations on grassland ecosystems can extend well beyond the actual converted habitat, for example through edge effects caused by road building (O’Leary and Nyberg 2000) and through increased densities of non-grassland predators (Herkert et al. 2003).



References

Di Giacomo, A. S. and Krapovickas, S. (2001) Afforestation threatens Argentina’s grasslands. World Birdwatch 23: 24–25.
 
Herkert, J. R., Reinking, D. L., Wiedenfeld, D. A., Winter, M., Zimmerman, J. L., Jensen, W. E., Finck, E. J., Koford, R. R., Wolfe, D. H., Sherrod, S. K., Jenkins, A., Faaborg, J. and Robinson, S. K. (2003) Effects of prairie fragmentation on the nest success of breeding birds in the midcontinental United States. Conserv. Biol. 17: 587–594.
 
Krapovickas, S. and Di Giacomo, A. S. (1998) Conservation of pampas and campos grasslands in Argentina. Parks 8: 47–53.
 
Krapovickas, S. and Di Giacomo, A. S. (2000) Pampas Argentinas: Important Bird Areas in temperate and subtropical grasslands from Argentina. Buenos Aires: Aves Argentinas/AOP.
 
Laura, G. (2002) Metas para el Año 2010, Argentinos a las Obras. Buenos Aires: Xavier Verstraeten
 
O’Leary, C. H. and Nyberg, D. W. (2000) Treelines between fields reduce the density of grassland birds. Nat. Areas J. 20: 243–249.
 
Roman (2000) Clarín [27 July]: 40.
 
Stattersfield A. J., Crosby, M. J., Long, A. J. and Wege D. C. (1998) Endemic Bird Areas of the world: priorities for biodiversity conservation. Cambridge, U.K.: BirdLife International.

Acknowledgements

Data and background materials kindly provided by Adrián Di Giacomo (Aves Argentinas/AOP).

Compiled 2004

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2004) In Argentina, agriculture and settlement are increasingly fragmenting native grasslands. Presented as part of the BirdLife State of the world's birds website. Available from: http://www.birdlife.org/datazone/sowb/casestudy/126. Checked: 01/08/2014