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Above-ground biomass and productivity in the Montado: From herbaceous to shrub dominated communities

Castro, H., Freitas, H.
Journal of arid environments 2009 v.73 no.4-5 pp. 506-511
abandoned land, land use, grazing, biomass, dry matter accumulation, primary productivity, ecological succession, grasslands, herbaceous plants, shrubs, Portugal
Our study was focused on the effect of abandonment on above-ground biomass and net primary productivity (ANPP) in a Montado in Southern Portugal. The Montado has a long history of human management and control of invasion by shrubs is achieved by clearing, ploughing and grazing. When these cease, it is invaded by Mediterranean matorral species. We hypothesized that the change in life form dominance would affect both biomass and productivity, but while the total biomass was expected to increase, the effects on ANPP were less clear. We tested our hypothesis by determining above-ground biomass and ANPP along a gradient of decreasing land use intensity, ranging from extensive grazing to 20 years of abandonment. Above-ground biomass increased with abandonment, which was related with the increase in shrub cover. In addition, we found a decrease in herbaceous ANPP that was more than compensated by an increase in shrub ANPP in plots abandoned for longer time, resulting in a significant increase in total ANPP. This increase was strongly related with the increase in the cover of Cistus ladanifer, a pioneer species that colonises degraded areas and forms one of the first stages of succession of woody communities.