Botanical Composition and Diet Quality of the Vicuñas (Vicugna vicugna Mol.) in Highland Range of Parinacota, Chile
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Simple Summary For the proper management of grazing wild ungulates, it is very important to know the botanical composition and quality of their selected diets. In the case of the vicuna, a wild camelid that lives in the Chilean highlands, there is little information related to these aspects. Therefore, in this work, the variations in the botanical composition and quality of their diets throughout the year were studied, which were estimated by analyzing the plant fragments found in the feces and the concentration of nitrogen within them. The vicuna mainly selects grasses from dry and wet grassland but is also capable of selecting other species, such as graminoids and dicotyledonous herbs. These plants contribute to obtaining a diverse and high-quality diet, this being an efficient foraging strategy to be able to consume a good quality diet, mainly in the months of high nutritional demand, which coincides with the summer rainy season. Understanding the botanical composition of herbivores' diets and their nutritional quality is an important question in the development of sustainable strategies for the management of natural resources. In Chilean highland vicuna-grazed grasslands, there is little information in this regard and, therefore, this study aimed to determine the year-round profile of the diet's botanical composition and quality. In highland grasslands, on an area of 21.9 ha, continuously grazed for 3.06 VU/ha/year (18 degrees 03 ' S, 69 degrees 13 ' W; 4425 m.o.s.l), twelve feces piles were sampled monthly and were analyzed through microhistology, and the nitrogen concentration [NF, OM basis] was determined. The botanical composition, diversity (J) and selectivity index (E-i) of the main species were estimated. Diets were composed of dry-grassland grasses (37.7%), wet-grassland grasses (36.6%), graminoids (14.3%) and forbs (10.2%). The diet diversity ranged from 0.79 (dry-winter) to 0.87 (wet-summer). The main dominant grassland species obtained negative E(i)values. The annual mean value of [NF] was estimated as 1.82%, with a higher value in summer months (2.21%), which coincides with the physiological states of higher nutritional demand. The vicunas behave like generalist ungulates, having a high degree of selectivity towards grass species, which mostly fulfill a nutritional role in subsistence and a functional role in survival, applying foraging strategies that allow them to obtain a better quality diet during the season of greatest nutritional demand.
Agrarian Innovation Foundation (FIA) PIT-2008-0189
Artículo de publicación ISI
Quote ItemAnimals 2020, 10, 1205
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