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Invasion of campo Cerrado by braquiária (Urochloa decumbens): diversity losses and management techniques for restoration

Grant number: 13/24760-4
Support type:Regular Research Grants
Duration: May 01, 2014 - April 30, 2016
Field of knowledge:Biological Sciences - Ecology - Applied Ecology
Principal Investigator:Giselda Durigan
Grantee:Giselda Durigan
Home Institution: Instituto Florestal. Secretaria do Meio Ambiente (São Paulo - Estado). São Paulo , SP, Brazil
Assoc. researchers: Marinez Ferreira de Siqueira


Invasion by African grasses has been one of the major challenges for conservation and restoration of the Brazilian savanna, particularly for open physiognomies. These invasive species cause biodiversity losses, modify the structure of plant communities,increase considerably the amount of fuel and, therefore,intensity and frequency of wild fires. Ecological processes related to invasion by brachiaria(Urochloa decumbens (Stapf.) RD Webster) are still poorly understood and this hinders the actions of management and conservation. The proposed research aims at: 1) characterize the factors and processes involved in biodiversity losses after invasion by in areas of cerrado grassland, 2) quantify the rate at which invasive species moves on natural ecosystems and especially 3) testing techniques to control the invasion which can be environmentally and economically viable.The study will be carried out at Santa Bárbara Ecological Station (Aguas de Santa Bárbara, state of Sao Paulo, Brazil). Losses in diversity resulting from the invasion will be assessed by comparing richness, density and ground cover of different vegetation components (woody plants, forbs, native and exoticgrasses) in invaded and non invaded plots. For this comparison, 20 pairs of plots of 2.0 mx 2.0 m will be sampled, each pair consisting of one invaded and another non-invaded plot, across five sectors of the Ecological Station. The microclimatic variables air temperature and relative humidity, and photosynthetically active radiation (taken 5 cm above the soil surface in each plot) will be investigated as factors possibly related to diversity losses. The rate of expansion of the invasive species will be quantified by monitoring over two years the expansion of 20 isolated invaded patches from their initial perimeter. That will permit estimating theincrease of the invaded areasif invasion is not controlled. The eradication experiment will be installed in an area totally invaded, where nine treatments (five randomized replicateseach), will be tested:i ) prescribed burning, ii ) herbicide, iii ) hand weeding, iv ) burn + herbicide, v) burn + hand weeding, vi ) burn + soil escarification + herbicide, vii) control (brachiaria with no treatment), viii ) reference (non invaded ), ix ) reference + burn. Prescribed burning will be applied just once in all treatments.Complementary techniques (herbicide and weeding) will be reapplied as often as necessary to control the invasive grass. Treatments will be compared on the basis of costs, richness, density and cover by native vegetation.Our expectation is that, after eradication of the invasive grass, the native plants remaining will spread over the treated plots, triggering their ecological restoration. Hopefully, the study will not only clarify the mechanisms through which invasive grass leads to loss of biodiversity in open cerrado physiognomies, but especially to provide subsidies for management, conservation and restoration of these ecosystems. (AU)

Articles published in other media outlets (2 total):
EBC Rádios: Publicação ressalta negligenciamento da biodiversidade (24/May/2019)
Revista ECO•21 online: A importância das pequenas plantas do Cerrado (18/Apr/2019)