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Trade‐Offs between Cattle Production and Bird Conservation in an Agricultural Frontier of the Gran Chaco of Argentina

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Abstract

Intensification of food production in tropical landscapes in the absence of land‐use planning can pose a major threat to biological diversity. Decisions on whether to spatially integrate or segregate lands for production and conservation depend in part on the functional relations between biological diversity and agricultural productivity. We measured diversity, density, and species composition of birds along a gradient of production intensification on an agricultural frontier of the Argentine Chaco, where dry tropical forests are cleared for cattle production. Bird species diversity in intact forests was higher than in any type of cattle‐production system. Bird species richness decreased nonlinearly as cattle yield increased. Intermediate‐intensity silvopastoral systems, those in which forest understory is selectively cleared to grow pastures of non‐native plants beneath the tree canopy, produced 80% of the mean cattle yield obtained in pastures on cleared areas and were occupied by 70–90% of the number of bird species present in the nearest forest fragments. Densities of >50% of bird species were significantly lower in open pastures than in silvopastoral systems. Therefore, intermediate‐intensity silvopastoral systems may have the greatest potential to sustain cattle yield and conserve a large percentage of bird species. However, compared with low‐intensity production systems, in which forest structure and extent were intact, intermediate‐intensity silvopastoral systems supported significantly fewer forest‐restricted bird species and fewer frugivorous birds. These data suggest that the integration of production and conservation through intermediate‐intensity silvopastoral systems combined with the protection of forest fragments may be required to maintain cattle yield, bird diversity, and conservation of forest‐restricted species in this agricultural frontier.

Compromisos entre la Producción de Ganado y la Conservación de Aves en una Frontera Agrícola del Gran Chaco de Argentina
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Language: English

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2012

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