Fossorial birds help shape the plant community of a Peruvian desert

M. Cristina Rengifo-Faiffer, C. Arana

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


The Lomas ecosystems are fog-dependent oases within the hyper arid band of the Peruvian coast. Biological soil crusts (BSC) formed in the Lomas interact with the fauna and flora, but relationships among these groups have not been investigated. Here we asked if natural bioperturbations made by fossorial birds that disrupt BSC cover are increasing plant diversity in the Lomas at the National Reserve of Lachay in Peru. We analyzed active and inactive avian bioperturbations and measured the soil seed bank and the field emergence of seedlings. The plant community observed in the soil seed bank showed lower abundance of seedlings in active bioperturbations than undisturbed BSC or inactive bioperturbations. However, the emergence of seedlings in the field presented a different pattern, where both active and inactive bioperturbations were richer and more abundant in seedlings than the soil with undisturbed BSC. Our results show that bioperturbations by fossorial birds have a positive effect on seed germination and supports a richer vascular plant community in a unique ecosystem of the Peruvian desert. Here we demonstrate the importance of spatial and temporal heterogeneity for ecosystem structure and functioning.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)29-33
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
StatePublished - Oct 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful to Mery Suni, Tomás A. Carlo, Letty Salinas and members of the Ecology Department of the Natural History Museum for the invaluable help and support in the development of this work. We also thank the Natural History Museum of Lima and the heads of the National Reserve of Lachay for the institutional support. Our gratitude extends to Anita Antoninka and Kenneth Young for their valuable help and support through the manuscript corrections. Furthermore, the present work was part of the undergraduate thesis of Maria C. Rengifo and was possible thanks to the financial support of the Universidad Nacional Mayor de San Marcos through the VRIP and the ICBAR.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 Elsevier Ltd


  • Atacama-sechura desert
  • Biological soil crust
  • Bioperturbation
  • Ecosystem engineer
  • Lomas ecosystems


Dive into the research topics of 'Fossorial birds help shape the plant community of a Peruvian desert'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this