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Individual plant and population biomass of dominant shrubs in Patagonian grazed fields

Keywords: adesmia volckmannii, allometric equations, mulinum spinosum, semi-arid ecosystems, senecio filaginoides, woody species.

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Abstract:

estimating aboveground biomass of vegetation is essential for population, community and ecosystem studies. in systems dominated or co-dominated by woody species, biomass estimation is difficult, and rapid and non-destructive methods are needed. in this study, we describe biomass distribution in different components (i.e., wood, leaves) and how this changes with shrub size for the three dominant species of shrubs in the occidental district of the patagonian steppe. we also describe the population size structure of the three species in grazed fields and estimate their contribution to total abundance and biomass through a non-destructive method. we developed allometric equations to estimate aboveground biomass components of individual shrubs from structural descriptors (i.e., diameter and height of the crown), sampling individual plants of different sizes. the variable that best predicted biomass of the three species was the sum of the height and the average diameter of the crown (calculated with the largest diameter and its perpendicular). allometric models for each species explained more than 83% of the variability of individual aboveground biomass. at the individual level, species had different proportions of wood, leaves and specific wood weight. increasing shrub size was accompanied by changes in the proportion of leaves to wood, and in some cases, the percentage of dead crown. at the population level, the three species differed in size distribution in moderately grazed fields. development of allometric models from a population perspective is important to study demographic processes that drive community and ecosystem responses to environmental and land-use changes.

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