Endemic land snails and earthworms from a Protected Area in the Ventania Mountain System

Silvana Burela

The "ETP Reserve", located at the Ventania Mountain System, is the only reserve protecting the natural highland grasslands in the Argentinian pampas. These ancient mountains form a very particular outcrop in the pampas plain, containing many endemic species, including several land snails. This reserve is the object of academic concern due to the recognized effect of the introduced wild-horse population and the increasing area that is invaded by exotic woody plants. The effects on the natural vegetation and bird community dynamics have been already studied in this area, but invertebrates have been almost entirely neglected up to date. Land snails and earthworms are two taxa that can be suitably studied by our working team, according to their previous training, and the conservation interest in the diet of endangered species (a threatened endemic lizard (Prystidactylus casuhatiensis), whose protection is intended by the park, feeds mainly on the endemic snail (Plagiodontes magnus), thus, to achieve a proper conservation of this lizard it is essential to also protect its food source) and/or as indicators of soil disturbance. We expect to identify key factors that determine the presence and abundance of the main snail and earthworm species, particularly in areas that are disturbed and that can affect the conservation goals of this protected area. This work will be the starting point for a specific program on invertebrate conservation, which has no antecedents in our country.