Search this journal:     Advanced search
Original Research

Herbivores shape woody plant communities in the Kruger National Park: Lessons from three long-term exclosures

Benjamin J. Wigley, Herve Fritz, Corli Coetsee, William J. Bond

Koedoe; Vol 56, No 1 (2014), 12 pages. doi: 10.4102/koedoe.v56i1.1165

Submitted: 07 May 2013
Published:  11 March 2014

Abstract

The role of grazers in determining vegetation community compositions and structuring plant communities is well recognised in grassy systems. The role of browsers in affecting savanna woody plant communities is less clear. We used three long-term exclosures in the Kruger National Park to determine the effect of browsers on species compositions and population structures of woody communities. Species assemblages, plant traits relating to browsing and soil nutrients were compared inside and outside of the exclosures. Our results showed that browsers directly impact plant species distributions, densities and population structures by actively selecting for species with traits which make them desirable to browsers. Species with high leaf nitrogen, low total phenolic content and low acid detergent lignin appeared to be favoured by herbivores and therefore tend to be rare outside of the exclosures. This study also suggested that browsers have important indirect effects on savanna functioning, as the reduction of woody cover can result in less litter of lower quality, which in turn can result in lower soil fertility. However, the magnitude of browser effects appeared to depend on inherent soil fertility and climate.


Conservation implications: Browsers were shown to have significant impacts on plant communities. They have noticeable effects on local species diversity and population structure, as well as soil nutrients. These impacts are shown to be related to the underlying geology and climate. The effects of browsers on woody communities were shown to be greater in low rainfall, fertile areas compared to high rainfall, infertile soils.


Full Text:  |  HTML  |  EPUB  |  XML  |  PDF (887KB)

Author affiliations

Benjamin J. Wigley, School of Natural Resource Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, George campus, South Africa; UMR CNRS 5558 LBBE, University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
Herve Fritz, UMR CNRS 5558 LBBE, University Claude Bernard Lyon 1, France
Corli Coetsee, School of Natural Resource Management, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, George campus, South Africa
William J. Bond, Department of Biological Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

Keywords

Browsers; herbivore exclosures; plant communities; plant traits

Metrics

Total abstract views: 3160
Total article views: 6154  

Cited-By

1. An index for assessing effectiveness of plant structural defences against mammal browsing
T. Charles-Dominique, G. F. Midgley, W. J. Bond
Plant Ecology  vol: 216  issue: 10  first page: 1433  year: 2015  
doi: 10.1007/s11258-015-0522-4

Comments on this article

Before posting your comment, please read our policy.
Post a Comment (Login required)


ISSN: 0075-6458 (print) | ISSN: 2071-0771 (online)

Connect on: Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn and YouTube

Subscribe to our newsletter

All articles published in this journal are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license, unless otherwise stated.

Website design & content: ©2017 AOSIS (Pty) Ltd. All rights reserved. No unauthorised duplication allowed.

AOSIS Publishing | Empowering Africa through access to knowledge
Postnet Suite #110, Private Bag X19, Durbanville, South Africa, 7551Tel: 086 1000 381 Tel: +27 21 975 2602 Fax: 086 5004 974

publishing(AT)aosis.co.za replace (AT) with @

Please read the privacy statement.