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  • 1 University of Camerino School of Environmental Sciences Via Pontoni 5 62032 Camerino (Macerata) Italy
  • | 2 Centro Nacional Patagónico-CONICET Boulevard Brown 2915 U9120ACV Puerto Madryn, Chubut Argentina
  • | 3 University of Urbino Department of Earth, Life, and Environmental Sciences Campus scientifico Sogesta 61029 Urbino Italy
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Since the early 20th century Patagonian arid steppes have been subjected to overgrazing that led to the degradation of plant communities. We hypothesized that the interplay among grazing history, plant-plant spatial interactions and species traits affects recovery and assemblage of shrub community after short-term abandonment in north-eastern Patagonian arid steppe (Peninsula Valdés, Argentina). We compared six sites (two in grazed pastures, and four in short-term ungrazed pastures, two of which intensively grazed, while the other two low intensity grazed in the past) with regard to: shrub cover percentage (10 × 10 m plots); shrub patch dimension, species richness, and spatial interactions among shrub species depending on patch dimension (patches sampled along transects); species richness and composition, vertical relations among species, and traits related to avoidance strategies and disturbance (1 × 1 m plots sampled along transects). Our results indicated that recovery processes in abandoned pastures act through the increase in shrub patch size, formation of new patches, change in patch composition and richness, and in within-patch relations among shrub species. No significant differences were found between sites subjected to different past grazing intensities. The increase in shrub cover was due to a significant expansion of the dominant shrub Chuquiraga avellanedae. The mechanism of new patch formation and spread was mainly based on facilitative processes acting between the dwarf shrubs, poorly palatable and disliked by wild herbivores, and young individuals of the dominant species emerging from their canopy. As patch size increased, dwarf shrubs were covered by taller ones or grew at the edge of the patch, indicating a phase of competitive exclusion. Plant-plant spatial interactions involved changes in the composition of plant traits linked to avoidance strategies, which were indicators of grazed conditions and of plots with shrub cover lower than 50%, while less need for defence against animal browsing was highlighted in ungrazed pastures and shrub-dominated plots. As the density of herbivores is recognized as the key factor in biodiversity conservation and ecosystem recovery, management plans devoted to conservation of biodiversity and forage resources should work to recreate grazing conditions close to the wild ones or to impose a short-term period of ecosystem rest that allows the plant community to recover.

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Senior editors

Editor(s)-in-Chief: Podani, János

Editor(s)-in-Chief: Jordán, Ferenc

Honorary Editor(s): Orlóci, László

Editorial Board

  • Madhur Anand, CAN (forest ecology, computational ecology, and ecological complexity)
  • S. Bagella, ITA (temporal dynamics, including succession, community level patterns of species richness and diversity, experimental studies of plant, animal and microbial communities, plant communities of the Mediterranean)
  • P. Batáry, HUN (landscape ecology, agroecology, ecosystem services)
  • P. A. V. Borges, PRT (community level patterns of species richness and diversity, sampling in theory and practice)
  • A. Davis, GER (supervised learning, multitrophic interactions, food webs, multivariate analysis, ecological statistics, experimental design, fractals, parasitoids, species diversity, community assembly, ticks, biodiversity, climate change, biological networks, cranes, olfactometry, evolution)
  • Z. Elek, HUN (insect ecology, invertebrate conservation, population dynamics, especially of long-term field studies, insect sampling)
  • T. Kalapos, HUN (community level plant ecophysiology, grassland ecology, vegetation-soil relationship)
  • G. M. Kovács, HUN (microbial ecology, plant-fungus interactions, mycorrhizas)
  • W. C. Liu,TWN (community-based ecological theory and modelling issues, temporal dynamics, including succession, trophic interactions, competition, species response to the environment)
  • L. Mucina, AUS (vegetation survey, syntaxonomy, evolutionary community ecology, assembly rules, global vegetation patterns, mediterranean ecology)
  • P. Ódor, HUN (plant communities, bryophyte ecology, numerical methods)
  • F. Rigal, FRA (island biogeography, macroecology, functional diversity, arthropod ecology)
  • D. Rocchini, ITA (biodiversity, multiple scales, spatial scales, species distribution, spatial ecology, remote sensing, ecological informatics, computational ecology)
  • F. Samu, HUN (landscape ecology, biological control, generalist predators, spiders, arthropods, conservation biology, sampling methods)
  • U. Scharler, ZAF (ecological networks, food webs, estuaries, marine, mangroves, stoichiometry, temperate, subtropical)
  • D. Schmera, HUN (aquatic communities, functional diversity, ecological theory)
  • M. Scotti, GER (community-based ecological theory and modelling issues, trophic interactions, competition, species response to the environment, ecological networks)
  • B. Tóthmérész, HUN (biodiversity, soil zoology, spatial models, macroecology, ecological modeling)
  • S. Wollrab, GER (aquatic ecology, food web dynamics, plankton ecology, predator-prey interactions)


Advisory Board

  • S. Bartha, HUN
  • S.L. Collins, USA
  • T. Czárán, HUN
  • E. Feoli, ITA
  • N. Kenkel, CAN
  • J. Lepš, CZE
  • S. Mazzoleni, ITA
  • Cs. Moskát, HUN
  • B. Oborny, HUN
  • M.W. Palmer, USA
  • G.P. Patil, USA
  • V. de Patta Pillar, BRA
  • C. Ricotta, ITA
  • Á. Szentesi, HUN



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Community Ecology
Language English
Size A4
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Founder Akadémiai Kiadó
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245
Publisher Akadémiai Kiadó
Springer Nature Switzerland AG
H-1117 Budapest, Hungary 1516 Budapest, PO Box 245.
CH-6330 Cham, Switzerland Gewerbestrasse 11.
Chief Executive Officer, Akadémiai Kiadó
ISSN 1585-8553 (Print)
ISSN 1588-2756 (Online)