Scielo RSS <![CDATA[Koedoe]]> vol. 58 num. 1 lang. en <![CDATA[SciELO Logo]]> <![CDATA[<b>The use of fynbos fragments by birds: Stepping-stone habitats and resource refugia</b>]]> Fynbos habitats are threatened by fragmentation through land use and anthropogenic changes in fire regimes, leading to a loss of suitable habitat for birds. We investigated the response of fynbos-typical avifauna to fragmentation and postfire vegetation age in order to better understand the consequences of these processes for bird communities. Vegetation composition and bird inventory data were collected along wandering transects in three South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos habitat configurations: fragmented patches (associated with anthropogenically driven habitat loss < 150 years ago), naturally isolated fynbos islands (formed through climate-driven forest expansion in the Holocene) and extensive areas of relatively pristine habitat known as 'mainland'. The latter configurations served as references against which to investigate bird and vegetation responses to more recent habitat fragmentation. Linear regressions were used to compare the relationships of a number of bird and plant species to areas between each habitat configuration. Bird attribute frequency data were compared between habitat configurations using chi-square tests. Birds and plants showed significant species-area relationships in natural island and mainland sites, but no such relationship occurred in artificial fragments for birds, where the surrounding anthropogenic land uses are likely to have contributed generalist or colonist species. Avifaunal migratory groups were not affected by isolation distances of &gt; 10 km in this study and their frequencies were the same across the three habitat configurations. Certain feeding guilds did, however, respond to postfire vegetation age, with nectarivore species twice as likely to occur in old-growth mainland fynbos. Fragmentation can alter fire disturbance regimes, which in turn alter the availability of resources in a habitat, so the impacts of fragmentation on birds are probably indirect through changes in the vegetation component. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Fragments of South Outeniqua Sandstone Fynbos have value as resource refugia and 'stepping-stone' reserves for avifauna. Fragments should be managed for vegetation age to ensure that at least some patches sustain high levels of nectar-producing plant species. Fire management should, however, factor in both plant and bird requirements. <![CDATA[<b>Wire netting reduces African elephant (<i>Loxodonta africana</i>) impact to selected trees in South Africa</b>]]> African elephants (Loxodonta africana) are ecosystem engineers in that they substantially alter the environment through their unique foraging and feeding habits. At high densities, elephants potentially have negative impacts on the environment, specifically for large trees. Because of this, recent increases of elephants in the Associated Private Nature Reserves (APNR) on the western boundary of the Kruger National Park (KNP), South Africa, have caused concern regarding the survival of several tree species. Our objective was to assess the effectiveness of wrapping protective wire netting around the trunk of the tree for preventing and reducing bark stripping, branch breaking, and felling by elephants. We assessed 2668 trees - 1352 Sclerocarya birrea(marula), 857 Acacia nigrescens (knobthorn), and 459 Lannea schweinfurthii (false marula) - for elephant impact in the APNR, 1387 (52%) of which had previously been wrapped in protective wire netting (789, 548 and 50, respectively). Wire netting was effective in reducing the severity of bark stripping and the relative proportion of trees that were bark stripped. In addition, wire netting had an effect on the level of impact, with a higher relative frequency of wire-net-protected trees found in lower impact categories compared with unprotected trees. Since tree mortality has been attributed to high levels of elephant impact, the use of wire netting could serve to maintain individual trees or populations particularly vulnerable to elephant impact in areas with locally high densities of elephants. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Since wire netting is a relatively low cost and ecologically unobtrusive strategy, it could be used to reduce elephant impact in problem areas. This method focuses on protecting trees rather than some other strategies such as environmental manipulation, translocation, contraceptives, and culling that instead focus on reducing elephant numbers. <![CDATA[<b>Assessment of traditional ecological knowledge and beliefs in the utilisation of important plant species: The case of Buhanga sacred forest, Rwanda</b>]]> Traditional ecological knowledge is an integrated part of the African people and indeed the Rwandese for cultural purpose. Buhanga sacred forest is a relict forest of tremendous ecological importance to Rwandan society located in Musanze District. The aim of this study was to assess the traditional ecological knowledge and belief in the utilisation of some important plant species for the conservation of Buhanga sacred forest. Ecological information about ethnomedicinal and traditional practices were collected following structured questionnaire through interview involving eight traditional healers and three focus group discussions. Data were collected from the natural habitats, home gardens, farmlands and roadsides of Buhanga sacred forest. A total of 45 botanical taxa belonging to 28 families were reported to be used by the local community. Species such as Brillantaisia cicatricosa and Senna septemtrionalis were the popular species cited by traditional healers to treat human and animal diseases and ailments, respectively. The results of the study indicated that because of the cultural norms and values associated with the sacred forest, this has led to non-exploitation. The study presents key sites and plant species in which their use and belief can lead to their conservation. However, not only is it imperative to conserve traditional local knowledge for biocultural conservation motives but there is also need to train traditional healers on how to domesticate indigenous species as conservation measure because some species have become susceptible to extinction. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Highlighting indigenous species investigated in this research will provide a powerful tool for ensuring biodiversity conservation through community participation in a country of high population density in Africa. Some plant species that provided satisfactory Local Health Traditions among communities surrounding Buhanga can contribute as good material for further research in Rwanda. <![CDATA[<b>Effects of water and nutrient addition on the coppice growth response of cut <i>Terminolio sericea</i></b>]]> The ability of a woody plant to coppice and remain vigorous largely depends on the severity of disturbances, resource availability and the mobilisation of stored reserves. There is limited information about the role played by resource limitation on the recovery of cut trees. This study investigated the effects of water and nutrient supplementation on coppice growth responses of resprouting cut trees in a semi-arid savannah in South Africa. Cut trees were exposed to different levels of water and nutrient (nitrogen and phosphorus) supplementation over a period of 2 years in a factorial experimental design. We hypothesised that adding water and nutrients would result in an increased coppice growth response and replenishment of stored structural reserves. Adding water and nutrients significantly increased shoot diameter, shoot length and resprouting ratio for the initial 12 months after cutting but not stored structural reserves. Such a response pattern suggests that the initial growth of resprouting shoots may be strongly resource-limited, while resources are concentrated on supporting fewer resprouting shoots compared to a higher number. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: If practicing rotational tree harvesting, trees resprouting in resource-poor locations need a longer resting period to recover stored reserves and to also recover lost height after cutting. <![CDATA[<b>Nest sites selection by sympatric cavity-nesting birds in miombo woodlands</b>]]> Deforestation and habitat fragmentation have long been known as drivers of wildlife depletion but information on their specific impacts on cavity-nesting birds in the miombo woodlands has been lacking. A comparative study of disturbed and undisturbed sites was conducted in miombo woodlands of Zambia to assess impacts of environmental stressors on birds. Foot patrols were employed to locate, identify and count host trees and cavities for cavity-nesting birds on twenty 200 m × 200 m sample plots. Undisturbed forests had three times more cavities (the nesting sites for birds), while there were 24.6% fewer abandoned cavities in undisturbed forests than in disturbed forests. The rate of cavity abandonment was about twice as high in human-dominated forests compared to undisturbed forests (61.3% c.f. 31.9%). Cavity-nesting birds preferred larger (> 36.0 cm diameter at breast height) and taller (> 5.0 m) trees for nest placement, especially in human-dominated forests. A number of cavity-nesting birds preferred Brachystegia spiciformis (zebrawood),Julbernadia paniculata (munsa), Parinari curatellifolia (mobola-plum) and Uapaca kirkiana (mahobohobo) as host trees to 14 other miombo tree species. Arnot's Chat (Myrmecocichla arnoti) had a wider selection of host trees for cavity-nesting than the other 40 cavity-nesting birds in the study areas. Anthropogenic activities such as uncontrolled firewood collection, wild fires, logging, and land clearing for agriculture negatively influenced wood abundance and diversity, with potential implications for persistence of cavity-nesting birds. The negative impacts of anthropogenic activities could be counteracted by conservation strategies such as implementation of sound forest policies, integrative land use practices, sustainable livelihood security and stakeholders' awareness of the need to safeguard forest-dependent avifauna. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: This comparative study unravels specific anthropogenic impacts on the cavity-nesting birds in the miombo woodlands, which would be relevant for designing and implementing targeted biodiversity conservation interventions against negative local environmental values and attitudes that support rural development on the expense of conservation of biodiversity such as birds. <![CDATA[<b>Viewshed and sense of place as conservation features: A case study and research agenda for South Africa's national parks</b>]]> Sense of place (SoP) refers to the meanings and values that people attach to places. The concept can be used to frame how people engage or form a connection with the natural environment. At a sensory level, SoP is influenced by people's visual experiences, which in turn can be linked to the concept of viewsheds. Viewsheds can be transformed, either abruptly (e.g. by infrastructure development such as wind turbines) or more gradually (e.g. by non-native trees invading a landscape). In this study, we focus on the Garden Route National Park to explore the potential importance of viewsheds as a conservation feature, specifically in the context of non-native (especially invasive) tree species. Using mixed information sources, we explore the potential role of invasive trees on experiences of visitors to this protected area and speculate on how viewsheds may shape SoP associations and how such associations may inform protected area management. Our investigation shows that people's experiences regarding natural and modified viewsheds are varied and intricate. Both SoP and viewsheds have the potential to inform conservation action, and these concepts should form an integral part of objective hierarchies and management plans for national parks. However, while legislation and park management plans make provision for the use of these concepts, associated research in South Africa is virtually non-existent. We conclude by proposing a conceptual model and research agenda to promote the use of viewsheds and SoP in the management of national parks in South Africa. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Viewshed and sense of place can be used as boundary concepts to (1) facilitate interdisciplinary research between social and natural scientists, (2) help understand the connectedness and feedbacks between people and nature and (3) promote communication between science, management and stakeholders regarding desired conditions of landscapes in and around parks. <![CDATA[<b>Groundwater stable isotope profile of the Etosha National Park, Namibia</b>]]> The Etosha National Park (ENP) is a large protected area in northern Namibia. While the ENP has received a lot of research attention in terms of terrestrial ecosystem process understanding in recent decades, aquatic and hydrological research has to date been limited to a descriptive form. This study provides a baseline hydrological data set of the spatial representation of O- and H-isotope ratios in the groundwater at a park scale, with a focus on three water point types utilised by game, namely natural artesian and contact springs as well as artificial boreholes. The data are used to infer broad-scale hydrological process from groundwater recharge mechanisms dominated by direct rainfall recharge in the west of the ENP to evaporative controls on surface water recharge pathways in the east of the ENP close to Fishers Pan. The findings are used to recommend further targeted research and monitoring to aid management of water resources in the ENP. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: The terrestrial ecosystem, particularly large game, are tightly coupled to the distribution of available surface water in the ENP, notably contact and artesian springs. Within the ENP there is a perceived desiccation of these springs. This study provides a baseline upon which more comprehensive studies should be undertaken to differentiate natural from anthropogenic causes for this phenomenon. <![CDATA[<b>An 11-digit identification system for individual Nile crocodiles using natural markings</b>]]> Research and conservation of wild crocodiles and husbandry of captive crocodiles requires the reliable identification of individuals. We present a method using the individual colour markings on the first 10 single-crest scutes on the tails of Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus). The scutes are scored by number for colour, with a prefix for left or right providing a binary 11-digit identification number (identification numbers [IDs]; e.g. 12232232242 and 22333233232) per crocodile. A survey of 359 captive Nile crocodiles showed no duplication. However, 42% had asymmetrical scute markings requiring a binary approach. There does not seem to be a change in patterns with age, except that the number of missing scutes increased. A small trial showed that this method can be applied in the field, although more work is needed to determine observer bias and establish parameters for observability in the field. It is unlikely that both left and right IDs would be obtainable for each individual, but other distinctive markings such as scute shape and damage can be used to register the two IDs to one individual. Having two independent IDs for each crocodile provides the possibility of two independent population estimates for equal effort without having to link left and right IDs to individuals. Our proposed method would be useful in conservation, individual tracking and husbandry. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: A non-invasive marking and recapture method for Nile crocodile is presented whereby the first 10 single-crest scutes are scored for colour, allowing conservation practitioners to count and monitor crocodile populations and individuals. This method provides two equal-effort estimations of population size, as left and right hand sides are scored independently. <![CDATA[<b>The composition of mixed-species foraging flocks of birds in Kruger National Park, South Africa</b>]]> Mixed-species foraging flocks (MSFFs) of birds can be defined as aggregations of more than two species that actively initiate and continue their association while foraging, without being drawn to a single resource. MSFFs have been well documented for terrestrial habitats globally, but rarely in southern Africa. This study describes the composition of MSFFs in two habitat types (Acacia and Combretum) within the southern Kruger National Park, South Africa during the late dry season. Thirty-one MSFFs were recorded in each of the two habitat types, with 1251 individuals of 74 different species being observed. We found that compared to Combretum, (mean: 10.7 ± 5.2 s.d.) Acacia had significantly more individuals per MSFFs (mean: 21.5 ± 12.6 s.d.) and more species per MSFF (Acacia mean: 8.7 ± 3.5 s.d.; Combretum mean: 5.9 ± 1.7 s.d.). The mean number of individuals per species per 31 MSFFs was 9.3 (± 4.5 s.d.) and 7.6 (± 5.6 s.d.) in the Acacia and Combretum habitat types respectively. The most frequently occurring species in both habitat types was the Fork-tailed Drongo (Dicrurus adsimilis). There was a significant association between certain species pairs in both habitats. Future studies in this area could be done to investigate the reasons behind the differences in MSFF sizes and species numbers between habitats. The season during which this study was performed excluded all summer migrants and a similar investigation in the wet season may reveal a different MSFF composition. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Understanding the dynamics and compositions of MSFFs, could form a valuable component of avian biodiversity monitoring both in and outside of protected areas. Within a given area, changes in the composition and behaviour of MSFFs over time could potentially be used as early indicator of threats to biodiversity. <![CDATA[<b>Fish communities of the Wilderness Lakes System in the southern Cape, South Africa</b>]]> The Wilderness Lakes System, a temporarily open and closed estuary with three associated lakes situated in the southern Cape region of South Africa, was sampled using a range of sampling gears to assess the fish community. A total of 25 species were sampled throughout the system, with the highest diversity in the Touw Estuary (23 species) and the lowest in Langvlei (11 species). Estuary-associated marine species (13 species) dominated species richness with smaller proportions of estuarine resident (7 species), freshwater (3 species) and catadromous species (2 species). Estuarine resident species dominated the catch numerically. The size-class distribution of euryhaline marine species indicated that upon entering the Touw Estuary as juveniles, the fish move up the system towards Rondevlei where they appear to remain. Three freshwater species were recorded in the system, all of which are alien to the Wilderness Lakes System. Decreasing salinity in the upper lakes appears to be a driving factor in the distribution and increasing abundance of the freshwater fishes. Sampling followed a drought, with the system experiencing substantially increased levels of mouth closure compared to a similar study conducted in the 1980s. The timing of mouth opening and the degree of connectivity between the lakes influence the nursery function of the system as a whole. Management actions need to focus on improving ecological functioning of this system, in particular how mouth opening is managed, to facilitate nursery function and limit the establishment of invasive species. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Key management actions are required to improve fish recruitment potential into and within the system. These include maintenance of adequate marine inflow through adherence to artificial mouth breaching protocols and improving connectivity between the lakes through sediment removal from localised deposition points within the connecting channels <![CDATA[<b>Browser impacts in Mapungubwe National Park, South Africa: Should we be worried?</b>]]> This study explores the impact of browsers on vegetation types within the Mapungubwe National Park and specifically whether rocky outcrops or ridges in the park serve as refugia from browsers, particularly elephants. We sampled 80 transects at 20 sites and recorded 1740 plants comprising 65 species. We found that a high proportion (> 80%) of the woody vegetation sampled indicated browser utilisation. Although certain woody species (e.g. Albizia harveyi, Boscia albitrunca, Lannea schweinfurthii) appeared to be preferred by browsers, browsing levels were relatively high among all woody species. High levels of browsing by herbivores other than elephants suggest that they have a significant impact on the park's vegetation. We did not find that rocky ridges acted as refugia to browsers, but instead found that vegetation in rocky ridges was more severely impacted by browsers than vegetation in flat areas, despite vegetation being more accessible in flat areas. If elephant numbers continue to increase at the current rate (e.g. elephant numbers doubled between 2007 and 2010), we predict that some of the heavily utilised species will become locally rare over time. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: High levels of browsing by both elephant and smaller herbivores contribute to significant impacts on vegetation away from rivers in Mapungubwe National Park. Without management interventions that address both types of impact, structural and species diversity are bound to decrease over the short to medium term <![CDATA[<b>An assessment of rehabilitation success in an African grassland using ants as bioindicators</b>]]> Many studies that evaluate rehabilitation make use of invertebrate bioindicators. Invertebrates, especially ants, make useful indicators as they are sensitive to environmental change. We compared ant assemblages in rehabilitated and control sites in the Rietvlei Nature Reserve, a protected area important for grassland conservation in South Africa. Pitfall traps were used to sample ant assemblages at six control sites and six rehabilitated sites. In addition, environmental and vegetation surveys were conducted at each site. We found that the ant assemblages differed significantly between the control and rehabilitated sites, although there was considerable overlap; the control sites supported a greater species density and higher abundance of ants than the rehabilitated sites. In total, 36 ant species were collected (control sites: 34 species; rehabilitated sites: 26 species). The environmental survey revealed that percentages of bare ground and coarse sand, as well as soil pH, differed significantly between the control and rehabilitated sites. The control and rehabilitated sites also supported significantly different plant assemblages. Three indicator ant species were identified for the control sites:Crematogaster rectinota, Crematogaster amita and Monomorium fastidium. No indicator species were identified for the rehabilitated sites. These results suggest that recovery from the previous agricultural use of the area is still incomplete and highlights the lack of research examining the success of rehabilitation in the grassland biome. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: The present study illustrates the need for further research on rehabilitation techniques utilised in the grassland biome. This is of value as the remainder of South African grasslands are considered critically endangered. <![CDATA[<b>Classification and mapping of the woody vegetation of Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe</b>]]> Within the framework of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area (GLTFCA), the purpose of this study was to produce a classification of the woody vegetation of the Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe, and a map of its potential distribution. Cover-abundance data of woody species were collected in 330 georeferenced relevés across the Park. These data were used to produce two matrices: the first one using the cover-abundance values as collected in five height layers and the second one based on merging the layers into a single cover value for each species. Automatic classifications were produced for both matrices to determine the optimal number of vegetation types. The two classification approaches both produced 14 types belonging to three macro-groups: mopane, miombo and alluvial woodlands. The results of the two classifications were compared looking at the constant, dominant and diagnostic species of each type. The classification based on separate layers was considered more effective and retained. A high-resolution map of the potential distribution of vegetation types for the whole study area was produced using Random Forest. In the model, the relationship between bioclimatic and topographic variables, known to be correlated to vegetation types, and the classified relevés was used. Identified vegetation types were compared with those of other national parks within the GLTFCA, and an evaluation of the main threats and pressures was conducted. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Vegetation classification and mapping are useful tools for multiple purposes including: surveying and monitoring plant and animal populations, communities and their habitats, and development of management and conservation strategies. Filling the knowledge gap for the Gonarezhou National Park provides a basis for standardised and homogeneous vegetation classification and mapping for the entire Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area. <![CDATA[<b>Diet and seasonal dispersal of extralimital giraffe at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, Little Karoo, South Africa</b>]]> South African giraffe (Giraffa camelopardalis giraffa) have been introduced as an extralimital species to private farms in the Little Karoo on the basis of economic sustainability, and the need to create a competitive tourism product. However, little is known about the medium- to long-term impacts and ecological sustainability of such introductions. The diet of a population of giraffe on Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, near the town of Ladismith, was assessed via direct observations between January and October 2014, in order to determine their potential impact on the world's most species-rich semi-desert, the Succulent Karoo. Unlike giraffe in their native range, the Sanbona population showed seasonal preference for browse species. Acacia karroo (sweet thorn) appears to be the preferred browse species during autumn and spring, with Schotia afra being the preferred species in winter, and no significant preference being shown in summer. Giraffe also appeared to seasonally move between catchments where tree species other than A. karroo occurs, especially during winter and spring when the tributaries of the Brak River, containing mixed Acacia with S. afra (karoo boer-bean) and Euclea undulata(small-leaved guarri), were visited with increasing frequency. These results largely confirm the importance of A. karroo as the main browse species in this environment but also suggest that other species may be important components of the diet of extralimital giraffe in the Little Karoo. On farms where A. karroo is dominant, supplementary feed may be needed when A. karroo browse is unavailable due to leaf drop. CONSERVATION IMPLICATIONS: Acacia karroo was the main browse species of extralimital G. c. giraffa at Sanbona Wildlife Reserve, but it switched to S. afra during winter. This suggests that an assessment of alternative food species forms part of suitability assessments for the introduction of extralimital G. c. giraffa for areas similar to Sanbona.