Land cover and precipitation controls over long-term trends in carbon gains in the grassland biome of South America

Published in Ecosphere, v. 6(10):1-21

Texeira, M., Oyarzabal, M., Pineiro, G., Baeza, S. and Paruelo, J.M.

Publication year 2015
  • Laboratorio de Análisis Regional y Teledetección (LART), Instituto de Investigaciones Fisiológicas y Ecológicas Vinculadas a la Agricultura (IFEVA), Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires&ndashCONICET, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
  • Departamento de Métodos Cuantitativos y Sistemas de Información, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
  • Sistema Nacional de Investigadores, ANII, Uruguay 
  • Cátedra de Ecología, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires, Argentina 
  • Departamento de Sistemas Ambientales, Facultad de Agronomía, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay
  • Instituto de Ecología y Ciencias Ambientales. Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la República, Montevideo, Uruguay


IAI Program


IAI Project CRN3095


Carbon gains are a keyaspect of ecosystem functioning since they represent the energy available for upper trophic levels. Carbon gains (or primary production) are strongly correlated with other ecosystem attributes such as secondary production and they are also the support for the provision of many ecosystem services. Given the documented dependency of primary production on precipitation, we expect that altered precipitation regimes, such as those projected by climate models, will have a significant impact on carbon gains. Land use and land cover changes are also expected to have a significant impact on the dynamics of carbon gains. We generated a spectral database of the fraction of photosynthetically active radiation intercepted by vegetation (fPAR), inorder to studylong-term trends (i.e.,decades)incarbon gains andits spatial and temporal relationships with precipitation and land cover patterns in Uruguay, which is part of the Rio de la Plata Grasslands, one of the largest temperate grasslands biome of the world. We found that carbon gains of native forests and grassland afforestation exhibited the strongest positive spatial response to precipitation,whereas crops and rangelands the
weakest. In addition, we found that the temporal response of carbon gains to precipitation was strong and positive for alllanduses. Although therewerenot clear trendsinprecipitation,we found strongnegative trendsin carbon gains through time, particularlyin rangelands of the &lsquo&lsquoNorthern Campos&rsquo&rsquoof Uruguay,where these trends
represent a decrease between 10% and 25% of the annual aboveground net primary production. On the other hand, positive trends in carbon gains through time were associated to grassland afforestation and native forests. Therefore, during theperiod analyzed, landcoverhad a strongerinfluence on the observed trendsincarbon gains
than precipitation. These patterns emerged as a consequence of the interaction among precipitation, temperature, edaphic factors and management. Present trends in the controlling factors of C gains would exacerbate the observed patterns with serious consequences for the provision of ecosystems services.