Jürgen Dengler, Journal of Vegetation Science 2012

ScienceShot: Grazed Grasslands Are Biodiversity Hot Spots

Liz is a staff writer for Science.

Talk about packing it in. Researchers have found 89 plant species crammed into a single square meter of mountain grassland in central Argentina, including many grasses and small flowers. Several meadows in Romania and the Czech Republic were nearly as rich. These biodiversity hot spots, reported today in the Journal of Vegetation Science, emerged from researchers scanning millions of published and unpublished plant surveys in different-sized plots. Grazing animals, such as cows and sheep, help keep these small plots of land rich in species by removing the tops of plants, thereby allowing more individual plants access to light, the researchers say. Such hot spots used to be a lot more common, but now, with fewer free-ranging livestock, they're quite rare.

See more ScienceShots.

Posted in Plants & Animals