RODRIGUEZ Maria Victoria
Wild guanacos as scapegoat for continued overgrazing by livestock across southern Patagonia
MARINO, ANDREA; RODRÍGUEZ, MARIA VICTORIA; SCHOEDER, NATALIA
JOURNAL OF APPLIED ECOLOGY
WILEY-BLACKWELL PUBLISHING, INC
Lugar: Londres; Año: 2020 vol. 57 p. 2393 - 2398
1. In a recently published paper, Oliva et al. concluded that domestic grazing pressure across Patagonian rangelands approached carrying capacity due to decades of stock adjustment, but that guanaco overpopulation may have altered that balance. The authors argued that unless guanaco numbers are controlled, they will reduce forage available for domestic stock and will negatively affect rangelands. We consider that the herbivore-stock analysis presented is inaccurate and deserves revision, and that the stated conclusions lack empirical support.2. When the spatial distribution of herbivores is accounted for in the Oliva et al. analysis, domestic stock is far above carrying capacity, indicating that domestic overgrazing continues. 3. Theoretical and empirical evidence on bottom-up regulation and competitive exclusion challenges the supposed guanaco overpopulation and the hypothetical reduction of forage available for livestock. 4. Even if guanaco numbers are reduced, grassland degradation and production losses will continue because their main drivers, domestic overstock and heterogeneous grazing, are still operating.5. Synthesis and applications. Oversimplified models with poor ecological insight can lead to erroneous conclusions and misguide management decisions. The incorrect inference that Patagonian domestic stock is adjusted to carrying capacity could help to consolidate current domestic overgrazing by reducing incentives to improve livestock management practices. Regarding guanacos, a controversial species in an unfavourable context, control-oriented harvest without a clear justification threatens populations? viability and genuine attempts of productive diversification. Addressing relevant ecological processes, such as niche partitioning, competitive exclusion and population regulation, is essential to correctly assess joint carrying capacity in multi-herbivore systems, as well as to identify the true factors driving degradation processes and to optimize rangeland use on a sustainable basis.