Original Research - Special Collection: Granite catena ecosystem

Variation in mammal diversity and habitat affect heterogeneity and processes of a granite catena

Beanelri B. Janecke, Jeremy G. Bolton
Koedoe | Vol 62, No 2 | a1592 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v62i2.1592 | © 2020 Beanelri B. Janecke, Jeremy G. Bolton | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 13 September 2019 | Published: 29 October 2020

About the author(s)

Beanelri B. Janecke, Department of Animal, Wildlife and Grassland Sciences, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Jeremy G. Bolton, Bushcam Consulting, Stonehurst Mountain Estate, Lakeside, Cape Town, South Africa


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Abstract

A higher variety of habitats normally result in higher diversity of species. The granite catenas near Skukuza, Kruger National Park (KNP), consist of different soil types along the hillslope, creating different habitats. Objectives were to determine the mammal species present on a catena and surrounding areas; to indicate their main period of activity; and to indicate human visibility in each catenal zone to explain landscape of fear principles. Camera trap surveys were conducted for short periods and repeated over three years. In total, 31 mammal species were observed on the catena, and its nearest waterholes. Small to mega-sized mammals were present, but some species were only observed during one survey period. Small changes were noticed in activity periods between survey periods, probably due to the drought. A severe drought changed vegetation structure and visibility, but the study area appeared to act as a drought forage refuge. The lowest visibility was found at the sodic patch upper-midslope ecotone, and shrub veld. This can possibly explain the lower number of mammal observations in these areas. Different habitats and habitat features were described which can affect the presence of mammals, i.e. the mud wallows that were created and maintained by the mammals. Future studies can focus on the impact of seasonal changes in mammal presence and on mammal diversity during a normal rainfall year.

Conservation implications: To understand the mechanisms of herbivores as ecosystem drivers, aspects such as vegetation, soil and mammals should be combined. Better understanding of mammals, their habitats and associated processes can lead to better conservation actions.


Keywords

Animal presence; Ecosystem functioning; Herbivores and predators; Landscape of fear; Stevenson-Hamilton Supersite

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