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Capybara grazing lawns in a South American savanna

Julia Mata conducted the last of her fieldwork for her PhD this month in The Iberá Wetlands, Argentina. She collected data on the effects of herbivory on vegetation in long term exclosure plots. She measured structural and diversity shifts through biomass, height and species composition.

01.10.2019 | Dennis Pedersen

Photos by Julia Mata

Photos by Julia Mata

Grazing lawns are a well-studied phenomenon in Africa, where they are attributed to megaherbivores. South America has lost its megaherbivores, yet we observed areas with short grass resembling grazing lawns in our site in northeastern Argentina. We hypothesize these lawns are created by capybaras, a 50 kg social grazer. To test the effect of mammal herbivory on the structure and composition of grasslands we established herbivore exclosure plots.

Text by Julia Mata