Resilience of dry tropical rangelands: How native palms and trees mediate the effects of seasonal droughts
Climate warming is increasing the frequency and severity of droughts. We used a combination of methodological approaches to assess and understand the capacity of dry cattle pastures to cope and recover from these perturbations.
Farmers retain disperse trees and palms within their grazing paddocks for various economic and ecological purposes. Understanding how farmers manage on-farm tree cover, and how these decisions impact the environmental and productive functions of pastures is key for biodiversity conservation and the development of climate-resilient production systems.
Our research has demonstrated the importance of conserving native palms and trees in dry tropical cattle pastures. Dry pastures maintain 45% of the tree species diversity of surrounding forests. These remnant tree species have important effects on the functioning of these cattle pastures and their resilience to drought. While palms improve the performance of grasses by providing sparse shade and increasing soil microbial diversity, the deep shade of trees ameliorates heat stress of cattle during hot and windless days. Farmer’s choices for retaining native palms and trees may not aim at maximizing yields but rather may reflect a deeper and holistic understanding of their ecological systems.