LAND-USE INTENSIFICATION TRENDS IN THE RIO DE LA PLATA REGION OF SOUTH AMERICA: TOWARD SPECIALIZATION OR RECOUPLING CROP AND LIVESTOCK PRODUCTION
The Rio de la Plata region comprises central Argentina, Uruguay, and southern Brazil. Modern agriculture developed around 1900 with recent decades being characterized by the advance of cropping areas over native grasslands. Highly specialized agriculture has decoupled crop and livestock production but has succeeded in intensifying yields. However, significant losses of ecosystem services have been reported. Thus, questions have been raised on the sustainability of this pathway. A glance at world regions that have experienced similar trends suggests that an urgent course correction is needed. A major concern has been the lack of diversity in regions with highly specialized agriculture, promoting renewed interest in integrated crop-livestock systems (ICLS), not only because ICLS are more diverse than specialized systems, but also because they are rare examples of reconciliation between agroecosystem intensification and environmental quality. Consequently, this paper discusses alternatives to redesign multifunctional landscapes based on ICLS. Recent data provide evidence that recoupling crop and animal production increases the resilience of nutrient cycling functions and economic indicators to external stressors, enabling these systems to face climate-market uncertainty and reconcile food production with the provision of diverse ecosystem services. Finally, these concepts are exemplified in case studies where this perspective has been successfully applied.