SciELO - Scientific Electronic Library Online

vol.49 issue3Flora diversity in the Ecuadorian Páramo grassland ecosystemPlant species used in animal feeding in Mera, Santa Clara and Pastaza cantons in Pastaza province, Ecuador author indexsubject indexarticles search
Home Pagealphabetic serial listing  


Services on Demand




  • Have no cited articlesCited by SciELO

Related links

  • Have no similar articlesSimilars in SciELO


Cuban Journal of Agricultural Science

Print version ISSN 0864-0408On-line version ISSN 2079-3480

Cuban J. Agric. Sci. vol.49 no.3 Mayabeque July.-Sept. 2015




Characterization and in situ selection of promissory grasses species in the Ecuadorian Páramo grasslands ecosystem


Caracterización y selección in situ de especies de gramíneas promisorias en el ecosistema de páramo ecuatoriano



L. Fiallos,I R. S. Herrera,II R. Velásquez,III

IEscuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo, Facultad de Ciencias Pecuarias Riobamba- Ecuador.
Instituto de Ciencia Animal, Apartado Postal 24, San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque, Cuba.
IIIUniversidad de Granma, Bayamo, Cuba.




The plant Páramo grasslands ecosystem characterization was carried out by means of field expeditions to eight protected areas that Ecuador maintains through the Ministry of Environment. The expeditions were carried out every two months during three years, to evaluate in situ the botanical composition, frequency, density, height, basal cover and aerial cover. The observations were registered during two periods per year, at 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 d, for a total of 36 evaluations in each study place. The soil pH varied between 5.0 and 8.5, it is volcanic, with sandy and loamy characteristics. The identified species in the Ecuadorians heathlands were: 169 plants with forage importance, 90 grasses, 14 legumes, 28 compounds and 37 belonging to Equitaceas, Oxalidaceas, Liliaceas, Scrophulariaceas, Rosaceas, Ciperaceas, Poligonaceas, Plantaginaceas, Arbustivas, Orchideaceas, Ranunculaceas and Gentianaceas. A total of eighteen species showed good performance, when locating, at least, in a place. Those of great persistence and adaptation were Agrostis breviculmis, Agrostis exigua, Arrhenatherum pratensis, Arrhenatherum elatius, Bromus lanatus, Bouteloua curtipendula, Calamagrostis bolanderi, Calamagrostis tarmensis, Digitaria floridona, Eragrostis curvula, Euchlaena mexicana, Festuca weberbaueri, Holcus lanatus, Paspalum plicatulum, Paspalum bomplandianum, Poa pratensis, Stipa plumeris and Stipa plumosa. For the production of green and dry forage, respectively, the best were Euchlaena mexicana, with 25.9 and 6.7 t/ha/cut, and Arrhenatherum elatius, with 24.4 and 6.9 t/ha/cut; also Arrhenatherum pratense, with 23.0 and 6.1 t/ha/cut and Stipa plumeris, with 21.9 and 6.8 t/ha/cut. There was great plants biodiversity that can be use for animal feeding, which is observed from other studies of chemical composition and management.

Key words: characterization, heathlands, grasses, legumes.


Se realizó la caracterización vegetal del ecosistema de páramo mediante expediciones de campo a ocho áreas protegidas que mantiene Ecuador mediante el Ministerio del Medio Ambiente. Las expediciones se realizaron cada dos meses durante tres años, para evaluar in situ la composición botánica, frecuencia, densidad, altura, cobertura basal y cobertura aérea. Las observaciones se registraron durante dos períodos por año, a los 60, 90, 120, 150 y 180 d, para un total de 36 evaluaciones en cada sitio de estudio. El pH del suelo varió entre 5.0 y 8.5, es volcánico, con características arenosas y arcillosas. Las especies identificadas en los páramos ecuatorianos fueron: 169 plantas con importancia forrajera, 90 gramíneas, 14 leguminosas, 28 compuestas y 37 pertenecientes a Equitaceas, Oxalidaceas, Liliaceas, Scrophulariaceas, Rosaceas, Ciperaceas, Poligonaceas, Plantaginaceas, Arbustivas, Orchideaceas, Ranunculaceas y Gentianaceas. Dieciocho especies mostraron buen comportamiento, al localizarlas, al menos, en un sitio. Las de mayor persistencia y adaptación fueron Agrostis breviculmis, Agrostis exigua, Arrhenatherum pratensis, Arrhenatherum elatius, Bromus lanatus, Bouteloua curtipendula, Calamagrostis bolanderi, Calamagrostis tarmensis, Digitaria floridona, Eragrostis curvula, Euchlaena mexicana, Festuca weberbaueri, Holcus lanatus, Paspalum plicatulum, Paspalum bomplandianum, Poa pratensis, Stipa plumeris y Stipa plumosa. Para la producción de forraje verde y seco, respectivamente, resultaron mejores Euchlaena mexicana, con 25.9 y 6.7 t/ha/corte, y Arrhenatherum elatius, con 24.4 y 6.9 t/ha/corte; además de Arrhenatherum pratense, con 23.0 y 6.1 t/ha/corte y Stipa plumeris, con 21.9 y 6.8 t/ha/corte. Hubo gran biodiversidad de plantas que pueden ser de utilidad para la alimentación animal, por lo que se precisa de otros estudios de composición química y manejo.

Palabras clave: caracterización, páramos, gramíneas, leguminosas.




Pujos (2013) and Crespo (2012) stated that the biodiversity conservation is a topic that progressively has relevance in the society. In this context, the flora conservation constitutes a key element. Just to point out that 250 000 of plant species well- kwon in our planet, 12.5 % is in extinction danger. The Páramo grasslands ecosystem in Ecuador covers, approximately, six percent of the national territory and is considered that it houses ten percent of the Ecuadorian flora. 

López (1998) and Paladines and Jácome (1999) argued that the heathland, joined to its biogeography continuity toward the south, in the puna, forms an almost uninterrupted biological corridor. For their extension, geographical position, ecological particularities, environmental functions and its function in economy, is considered an ecosystem of great importance at regional level (Monasterio 2003).

Paladines and Leal (1997) showed that in the Ecuadorian territory, high percentage of the surface dedicated to grasses production is related with the natural meadows that are in the heathlands. These reaches a surface of 1.3 million hectares approximately, that are equal to 5% of the national territory, where a population is settle, meanly indigenous, estimated in
500.000 families, although the number of people that indirectly depends on this ecosystem is higher, and this is the place where the communal lands are. (Mena 2010).

Cuesta et al. (2014) showed that the natural meadows, although they constitute a valuable natural resource, are use in a wrong way. This has caused their drastic deterioration, with the consequent decrease of the productivity and ecosystem erosion, recognized by their ecological, social, cultural and economical functions. Everything put on in danger the survival of many species that depend on it, direct or indirectly. 

This research tries, by means of the evaluation and ex situ selection, to determine the promissory species with multiplication potentialities, good productivity and bromatological composition that can be use in animal production.



This research was carried out in the Páramo grasslands ecosystem in eight protected areas that Ecuador maintains in the whole inter-Andean corridor, with the participation of the Ministry of Environment. The plant characterization was carried out by means of field expeditions, every two months, during three years.  

The grasses, legumes and weeds were separated and measured and it was in situ evaluated their botanical composition. Among the grasses, those species with some forage interest were separated, that was expressed in percentage, frequency (the presence or absence in each sampling transept), density (the number of plants per square meter existent in the exclusion places during the evaluation was measured), height (a quadrant was establish in the experimental units) and in the place a sample of 10 plants were take. The height was taken, from the plant base up to the terminal mean of the highest leaf. The basal and aerial cover was measured. Regarding the cover, expressed by percent, it was determined by means of canfield line method, the area that takes the plant in the crown as in their middle part, when evaluating their basal and aerial  cover, respectively (CIAT 1992 and Hitchcock 1927).

The observations were recorded during two periods per year, and in each one at 60, 90, 120, 150 and 180 d, for a total of 36 evaluations in each study place. The evaluation was carried out by means of lineal transepts of seven meters in zigzag, with inflection points each a meter, to obtain ten observations per each exclusion. There were taken in total 360 samples per evaluation place in each grass specie. This was use to identified the tree plants of the Ecuador high Andean area, in form, function and origin terms.

Measures corresponding to each botanical characteristic were carried out and there were registered by means of the International Plant Genetic Resources Institute methodology (IPGRI 1988 and CIAT 2003), which allowed evaluating the botanical characters of high heritability, easily visible or measurable, expressed in a consistent way in all environments. These ones were statistically evaluated, by means of the main components analysis and of cluster.



The Analysis of the Main Components, for all study places, showed that in the first two components was accumulated 87.63 % of the total variability. In the first and second, was accumulated 77.7 and 87.6 % of the variability, respectively. There were stood as variables of high weight in the first component, basal cover, aerial cover and density; while in the second were the botanical composition, plant height and frequency (figure 1). This showed that these are the most important variables that characterized the species of natural and naturalized grasses in the study places, for which was taking into account the selection from eigen values, higher to 0.39 (table 1).

When analyzing the species distribution in the level formed by the first two components, great variability was verified, due to the dispersion showed. There were stood as those of better performance 29 species, located above the axis of the component PC1, on the base of the considered characters, which represented 33% of the total (figure 2).

This variability could be related, in general way, with the cosmopolitan character that the grasses family represents, from the Polar Circle to Ecuador, and from mountains top up to the sea (Mena 2012).It is considered that grasses species constitutes, approximately, between 25 and 45 % of the earth plant cover (De la Cruz et al. 2009) and also, a few ecological formations lack of them (Mena 2012).

The analysis of hierarchical cluster and of complete ligament on the base of the Euclidean distance, carried out with the 29 species of better performance (figure 3), allowed conforming five different groups.

Group I, compound by the Arrhenatherum elatius and Arrhenatherum pratense species, was which of the best performance, from the characters basal cover, aerial cover and density. These species are only in the Cotacachi Cayapaz Ecological Reserve, since more than 85 years ago they were introduced by the natives from Europe, and they have reached high grade of adaptation to the rigorous conditions of the soil and climate that prevail in this place (Chaparro 2012).

Group II collect the Calamagrostis bolanderi, Calamagrostis heterophylla, Euchlaena mexicana, Digitaria floridona, Calamagrostis tarmencis, Paspalum bonplandianum and Festuca weberbaueri species, and showed the highest values in the botanical composition and density indexes. These species grow associated to an abundant plants community, due to their sprout- shaped and semi-erect growth habit, that confers them, advantages in the competition for light and nutrients (Hofstede and Medina 1995).In this group, Calamagrostis tarmencis was located, that is one of the higher distribution in the Ecuadorian Páramo grasslands ecosystems. 

The Euchlaena mexicana specie is only in Tunshi Experimental Station. Thanks to their botanical composition and density, survives associated to great quantity of improved grasses. While, Digitaria floridon is located in Podocarpus National Park, being this one natural specie of this ecosystem. The rest of species that constitutes the group, specifically those of Calamagrostis genus, are in most of the researched places. They are heathlands native species, where they are ready with great abundance (Sarmiento 2000 and Berg 1999).

Group III was constitutes by the Bromus lanatus, Festuca setifolia, Festuca ortophylla, Danhonia rhizomata, Paspalum plicatulum and Paspalum tuberosum species, with intermediate values in frequency and density, but with the lowest in the botanical composition, aerial and basal cover. The Danhonia rhizomata, Paspalum plicatulum and Paspalum tuberosum species are confined to a specific place, which showed few distributions of them in the Ecuadorian heathland.

 The group IV joined higher number of species: Agrostis breviculmis, Briza maxima, Bouteloua curtipendula, Eragrostis curvula, Bromas kalmi, Holcus lanatus, Poa pratensis, Festuca dolycophylla, Festuca elmeri, Festuca rubra, Festuca humilor, Stipa plumeris and Stipa plumosa. It was characterized for present intermediate values of botanical composition, aerial and basal cover, and low values in frequency and density; while  group V, that gathered the Agrostis exigua specie, showed values in the botanical composition, frequency and density, very near to the group IV, but low value in the basal and aerial cover. The Agrostis exigua specie was in seven of the eight researched places, which showed its wide distribution in the Ecuadorian heathland. In the group IV the highest number of endemic grasses from the Ecuadorian heathland was included: Agrostis breviculmis, Bouteloua curtipendula, Poa pratensis, Stipa plumeris and Stipa plumosa. These ones, in spite of not presenting the highest values in the considered characters, could being of interest to maintain the ecosystems balance, being the species of high adaptation grade and to highlight in the plant succession.

The in situ selected species showed that when analyzing their performance in the plant succession, only 18 species showed good performance, at least, in a place during great part of the period that takes the evaluation (table 2). These species were those of more persistence and adaptation to the ecosystem and, consequently, those of better conditions to face the competition between plants. Balslev and De Vries (1991) stated that the forces that limit or favor the succession are similar to those that take place by the species subsistence.

Bernal (2000) and Aguirre (2012) showed subsystem examples in the Ecuadorian heathland, where the meadows formed by the Agrostis-Juncus complex have been aggressively invaded by Rubis constrictus (murra) until the tenth year, when they covered forty percent of the area, and affected the grasses species presence.

As result of the bromatological analysis carried out to the selected species, the best results in Arrhenatherum elatius, A. pratense, Holcus lanatus, Stipa plumeris and S. plumosa were obtained, that showed better performance, regarding the protein content and ashes. Concerning fiber content, the Poa pratensis, Paspalum bomplandianum, P. plicatulum and Agrostis breviculmis species were identified as more promissory (table 3).

The Arrhenatherum elatius (11.58 %), Holcus lanatus (11.44 %) and Stipa plumosa (10.19 %) showed the best performance in protein content (table 3), with appropriate values for natural and naturalized grasses species from Andean heathlands. These values are above to that informed by Chaparro (2012), who showed values of 7 and 10.04 % for Festuca elatiorand Bromus cantharticus species, considered as promissory.

It is recommended to evaluate the ex situ agroproductive performance of Arrhenatherum elatius, Holcus lanatus and Arrhenatherum pratense promissory species in their bromatological composition and to know their forage potential as a new alternative in the Ecuador cattle production.



Aguirre, C. 2012. Programa para un manejo forestal sustentable en el instituto ecuatoriano forestal y de áreas naturales y vida silvestre. Diagnóstico de la Investigación Forestal en el Ecuador. Ecuador: ITTO,  INEFAN, 72-79 p.

Balslev, H. & De Vries, T. 1991. ‘‘Life forms and species richness in a bunch grass paramo on Mount Cotopaxi, Ecuador. Tropical ecosystems: systems characteristics, utilization patterns, and conservation issues’’. In: Proceedings of the International and Interdisciplinary Symposium, Quito: ECOCIENCIA, p. 45.

Berg, K. 1999. A field survey of avian diversity at the Bilsa Biological Station, Province of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Quito: Fundación Jatun Sacha, 35 p.

Bernal, F. 2000. Manejo de Páramos y Zonas de Altura. Relaciones Socio-Organizativas y Legales en el Páramo y otras Zonas de Altura. Quito, Ecuador: CAMAREM-IEDECA, 45 p.

Chaparro, J. 2012. Beneficios de los ecosistemas de páramo, organizaciones y políticas de conservación. 1st ed., Boyacá, Colombia: Cupido, 20 p.

CIAT 1992. Los bancos genéticos y la alimentación mundial. Cali, Colombia.

CIAT 2003. Manual para la colección, preservación y caracterización de recursos forrajeros tropicales. Cali. Colombia, 71-74 p.

Crespo, P. 2012. Puentes entre alturas. Sistematización del Proyecto “Páramo Andino en Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador y Perú. Rodríguez M. (ed.), Quito, Ecuador: CONDENSAN.

Cuesta, F., Sevink, J., Llambí, L., De Bièvre, B. & Posner, J. 2014. Avances en investigación para la conservación de los páramos andinos. Quito, Ecuador: CONDESAN.

Cuesta, L., Sevink, M., Llambí, T., De Bièvre, G. & Posner, H. 2014. La diversidad de los páramos andinos en el espacio y en el tiempo. Avances en Investigación para la Conservación en los Páramos Andinos. Quito: CONDESAN, 7-40 p.

De la Cruz, R., Mena Vásconez, P., Morales, M., Ortiz, P., Ramón, G., Rivadeneira, S., Suárez, e, Terán, J. F. & Velásquez, C. 2009. Gente y ambiente de páramo: realidades y perspectivas en el Ecuador. Quito: EcoCiencia-Abya Yala.

Hitchcock, A. 1927. Manual of the grasses of the Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia. Herbarium (ed.), New York, 14 - 26 p.

Hoftede, R. & Medina, G. 1995. ‘‘The effects of grazing and burning on soil and plant nutrient concentrations in Colombian Paramo Grasslands’’. Plant and Soil, 173: 111.

IPGRI 1988. Consejo Internacional para Recursos Genéticos de Plantas. Roma, Italia: Recursos genéticos de las plantas, 23-35 p.

López, F. 1988. Adaptación de especies forrajeras andinas a un sistema silvopastoril. Degree Thesis, Universidad Nacional de Loja, Loja, Ecuador.

Mena, P. 2010. Los páramos ecuatorianos: Paisajes diversos, frágiles y estratégicos. Quito, Ecuador: Ecociencia, 57 p.

Mena, P. 2012. Gente y Ambiente de Páramo: Realidades y Perspectivas en el Ecuador. Quito, Ecuador: Ecociencia, 34 p.

Monasterio, M. 2003. Caracterización ecológica del clima en el Páramo. Quito, Ecuador: Ayala, 23 p.

Paladines, O. & Jácome, C. 1999. Factores que determinan la producción primaria de los pastizales en los ecosistemas húmedos de la zona altoandina de la Sierra en especial de la provincia del Carchi. , Available: < cinific/n5620>, [Consulted: April 14, 2015].

Paladines, O. & Leal, J. 1997. Recomendaciones para evaluar germoplasma bajo pastoreo. Manejo y productividad de las praderas. CONDENSAN. CIAT, 321-245 p.

Pujos, L. 2013. Diversidad florística a diferente altitud en el ecosistema páramo de tres comunidades de la organización de segundo grado unión de organizaciones del pueblo Chibuleo. Degree Thesis, Escuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo, Ecuador.

Sarmiento, F. 2000. Breaking Mountain Paradigms: Ecological Effects on Human Impacts in Man-aged Tropandean Landscapes. 423 - 431 p.



Received: July 17, 2015
Accepted: July 21, 2015



L. Fiallos, Escuela Superior Politécnica de Chimborazo, Facultad de Ciencias Pecuarias Riobamba- Ecuador. Email:

Creative Commons License All the contents of this journal, except where otherwise noted, is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License