Effects of guanaco browsing: Tierra del Fuego (20.03.2015)

I am looking for a motivated student to do a project on the characterization of the guanaco (Lama guanicoe) –lenga (Nothofagus pumilio) interaction in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.  Recently, CONAF, the Chilean forestry department, has reported that despite their original fears to the contrary, the large population of wild guanaco in Tierra del Fuego has beneficial effects for the growth of lenga forests.  According to CONAF’s observations, the guanaco browse the lenga near to their trails through the forest, creating increased growth of the trees.  There are no formal studies of this observation to date.

 The proposed project should:

1)      Map the density and distribution of guanaco trails and their frequency of use.

2)      Quantify lenga age-class, canopy area and density along transects

3)      Quantify guanaco browsing pressure along trails

 This would provide the first scientific validation of CONAF´s observations, and should be carried out in collaboration with CONAF.  The project would provide comparative data for my project in the mediterranean zone of Chile (guanaco- acacia interactions), and could also contribute to the public debate over whether there are too many guanacos in Tierra del Fuego. 

I also have a long-term set of projects in central Chile relating to succession, ecosystem processes, rewilding of guanaco for restoring the acacia-dominated silvopastoral system “espinal”, and management and governance of espinal.  I am also interested in fieldwork studies on any of the topics and would be happy to discuss project options.

Contact: Dr. Meredith Root-Bernstein (meredith.root-bernstein@bios.au.dk)