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LIVESTOCK GRAZING REDUCES SOIL QUALITY AND THREATENS RECOVERY OF A DEGRADED ANDEAN ARAUCARIA FOREST.
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  • Oscar Crovo,
  • Clara da Costa-Reidel,
  • Rolando Rodríguez ,
  • Felipe Aburto
Oscar Crovo
Universidad de Concepción
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Clara da Costa-Reidel
Universidad de Concepcion
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Rolando Rodríguez
Universidad de Concepcion
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Felipe Aburto
Universidad de Concepcion
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Abstract

Araucaria araucana is an iconic long-lived endangered tree species exclusively distributed in Southern Chile and Argentina. Araucaria forest ecosystems provide a myriad of ecosystem benefits to local aboriginal Mapuche-Pehuenche communities. Among the main current threats for Araucaria forests are the increasing frequency and severity of wildfires and overgrazing. This study evaluates the effect of uncontrolled livestock grazing on soil quality indicators linked to critical functions relevant to forest regeneration and ecosystem service provision. We also aim to determine a set of soil quality indicators that are sensitive enough to grazing pressure, so they are useful as early indicators of degradation or the effectiveness of restoration practices. This study evaluated twenty soil quality indicators in two contiguous degraded forest areas with contrasting grazing pressure. We observed a substantial shift in forest structure, a reduction in tree coverage on the overgrazed sites. Overgrazing has produced significant deterioration of most soil physical, chemical, and biological quality indicators making soil conditions less suitable for seed germination and sapling establishment. We also observed an alteration in C, N, and P biogeochemical pools. Besides, soil physical indicators alterations suggest changes in these soils' hydrological behavior, potentially reducing water storage, availability, and increasing runoff. We show that uncontrolled grazing in native protected areas degrades soils and forest health, restricting forest regeneration and potentially accelerating erosive processes. Our results emphasized the need for an improved conservation plan for these forests that systematically evaluates and monitors livestock grazing and all its direct and indirect effects, including soil quality.

Peer review status:IN REVISION

24 Feb 2021Submitted to Land Degradation & Development
24 Feb 2021Submission Checks Completed
24 Feb 2021Assigned to Editor
15 Mar 2021Reviewer(s) Assigned
03 Apr 2021Review(s) Completed, Editorial Evaluation Pending
16 Apr 2021Editorial Decision: Revise Major
23 Jun 20211st Revision Received
24 Jun 2021Assigned to Editor
24 Jun 2021Submission Checks Completed