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Savanna landscape development

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Contrasting effects of cattle and wildlife on the vegetation development of a savanna landscape mosaic

Veblen KE, Young TP

JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY

Volume: 98 Issue: 5 Pages: 993-1001 Published: SEP 2010

 

Journal extract

 

Through their effects on plant communities, herbivores can exert strong direct and indirect effects on savanna ecosystems and have the potential to create and maintain savanna landscape heterogeneity. Throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, periodic creation and abandonment of livestock corrals leads to landscape mosaics of long-term ecosystem hotspots that attract both cattle and large ungulate wildlife.2. The development and maintenance of vegetation in these types of hotspots may be controlled in part by herbivory. Cattle and wildlife may have different, potentially contrasting effects on plant succession and plant-plant interactions. We ask how cattle and wild herbivores affect the maintenance and vegetation development of corral-derived landscape heterogeneity (0.25-1.0 ha treeless 'glades') in Laikipia, Kenya, through their effects on long-term successional and short-term plant-plant dynamics.

 

In the long-term experiment, we found that large ungulate wildlife reinforced landscape heterogeneity over time by helping maintain glades in their early C. plectostachyus-dominated form. Cattle and mega-herbivore wildlife, on the other hand, appeared to reduce the positive effects through forage preference for C. plectostachyus.

 

If you are interested in reading the complete paper, the pdf can be accessed if you are on the Save the Elephants mailing list.

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