Pathways of megaherbivore rewilding transitions: typologies from an Andean gradient

Related GLP Member: Ricardo Grau


In most of the planet, large herbivore communities have been replaced by livestock, but this process is reversing in many places. Here, we outline and review the pathways of “megaherbivore rewilding transitions” in three social-ecological-systems of subtropical Argentina. In the extensive arid high-elevation Puna plateau we observed a “rapid rewilding pathway” where the reduction of livestock was accompanied by the recovery of native camelid populations from near extinction in a few decades. In the forest-grassland ecotone, decreasing livestock favored higher fire frequency, probably limiting the speed of native herbivore recovery in an “increasing fire pathway”. In lowland montane forests, the recovery of native herbivore communities appears to be lagged by fragmentation, local extinctions and human pressure, representing a case of “connectivity-limited rewilding”. These typologies exemplify the complexity of outcomes resulting from livestock diminishing density, and provide a framework to understand and optimize processes of large herbivore rewilding according to different social-ecological contexts.