Southern Brazilian Grasslands

The PPBio Southern Brazilian Grasslands Network consists of 15 sampling sites distributed throughout the South Brazilian grassland region (‘Campos Sulinos’), an exceptionally diverse natural grassland region located in the southernmost part of Brazil.
In contrast to the PPBio sites in other regions, the PPBio Southern Brazilian Grasslands Network is not organized into regional hubs: For each species group, a specific group of researchers conducts fieldwork at all sites.
Nine sites are located in the Southern Brazilian Grasslands domain, and six sites in the southern part of the Atlantic Forest biome (according to the Brazilian biome classification proposed by the Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística/IBGE). Most sites and sampling plots are situated in privately owned areas under cattle grazing, but some grids are located, at least partially, in protected areas (Parque Estadual Guartela and Refúgio da Vida Silvestre dos Campos de Palmas, both in Paraná state, Parque Nacional da Lagoa do Peixe, Parque Estadual de Tainhas, and Parque Estadual do Espinilho, all in Rio Grande do Sul state).
As the Southern Brazilian Grasslands landscapes are dominated by grasslands, accessibility is rather easy, and no trail maintenance is necessary. Each site corresponds to an area of 5 x 5 km in which a grid with nodes at each 1 km was established. At nine nodes of this grid, selected by chance, 250-m long sampling transects were established along the isocline, always in grassland areas. Further, three transects were established in riparian forest along water courses.
All sites also contained three aquatic transects with a length of 150 m. A uniform sampling strategy was adopted at all transects, with specific procedures for subsampling defined individually for each taxonomic group (such as a larger sampling radius around the 250-m transects for birds and amphibians and sampling of grassland vegetation in ten subplots of 1 m2 each along the transect).
At grassland plots, plant communities, invertebrates, birds, and amphibians were sampled.
At riparian plots, invertebrates were sampled.
Aquatic plots were used to sample fish communities.
In an associated project, not originally part of the PPBio project, tree communities were sampled in riparian forests of the Pampa sites, and in upland forest patches at three of these sites, also using 250 m transects. Further, a set of abiotic parameters (physical and chemical soil features) was analyzed in all plots, in addition to other variables of relevance for the description of habitat quality for specific species groups. At two of the sites (Parque Estadual Tainhas and Parque Estadual do Espinilho), only grassland birds were sampled, as these sites had not originally been part of the PPBIo Campos Sulinos design. Finally, land use at each site was classified based on remote sensing data, building another set of explanatory variables.
While the Network is being coordinated by the Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS), Porto Alegre, several other institutions are partners in the research activities, namely Pontífica Universidade Católica do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) Universidade Estadual de Ponta Grossa (UEPG), Unipampa, Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul (UFFS), Universidade Federal de Pelotas (UFPel), Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (UFSC), Universidade Federal de Santa Maria (UFSM) and Empresa de Pesquisa Agropecuária e Extensão Rural de Santa (Epagri).
The fact that cattle grazing traditionally has been and still is an economically important type of land use – despite rapid land use change in many parts of the Southern Brazilian Grasslands region – offers the potential to work closely together with local stakeholders. Overall, research results point out that cattle grazing, when conducted appropriately, is an important way to preserve biodiversity and ecosystem services of natural grasslands and associated ecosystems.