Review Article

Reflecting on research produced after more than 60 years of exclosures in the Kruger National Park

Corli Wigley-Coetsee, Tercia Strydom, Danny Govender, David I. Thompson, Navashni Govender, Judith Botha, Chenay Simms, Adolf Manganyi, Laurence Kruger, Jacques Venter, Cathy Greaver, Izak P. Smit
Koedoe | Vol 64, No 1 | a1674 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v64i1.1674 | © 2022 Corli Wigley-Coetsee, Tercia Strydom, Danny Govender, Dave I. Thompson, Navashni Govender, Judith Botha, Chenay Simms, Adolf Manganyi, Laurence Kruger, Jacques Venter, Cathy Greaver, Izak P. Smit | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 19 February 2021 | Published: 28 February 2022

About the author(s)

Corli Wigley-Coetsee, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa; and, School of Natural Resource Management, George Campus, Nelson Mandela University, George, South Africa
Tercia Strydom, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa; and, Department of Soil, Crop and Climate Sciences, University of the Free State, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Danny Govender, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa; and, Department of Paraclinical Sciences, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
David I. Thompson, SAEON Ndlovu Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Phalaborwa, South Africa; and, School of Geography, Archaeology and Environmental Studies, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa
Navashni Govender, School of Natural Resource Management, George Campus, Nelson Mandela University, George, South Africa; and, Conservation Management, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Judith Botha, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Chenay Simms, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Adolf Manganyi, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Laurence Kruger, Organization for Tropical Studies, Faculty of Science, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Jacques Venter, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Cathy Greaver, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa
Izak P. Smit, Savanna and Grassland Node, Scientific Services, Kruger National Park, Skukuza, South Africa; and, Centre for African Ecology, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa


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Abstract

Herbivores are a main driver of ecosystem patterns and processes in semi-arid savannas, with their effects clearly observed when they are excluded from landscapes. Starting in the 1960s, various herbivore exclosures have been erected in the Kruger National Park (KNP), for research and management purposes. These exclosures vary from very small (1 m2) to relatively large (almost 900 ha), from short-term (single growing season) to long-term (e.g. some of the exclosures were erected more than 60 years ago), and are located on different geologies and across a rainfall gradient. We provide a summary of the history and specifications of various exclosures. This is followed by a systematic overview of mostly peer-reviewed literature resulting from using KNP exclosures as research sites. These 75 articles cover research on soils, vegetation dynamics, herbivore exclusion on other faunal groups and disease. We provide general patterns and mechanisms in a synthesis section, and end with recommendations to increase research outputs and productivity for future exclosure experiments.

Conservation Implications: Herbivore exclosures in the KNP have become global research platforms, that have helped in the training of ecologists, veterinarians and field biologists, and have provided valuable insights into savanna dynamics that would otherwise have been hard to gain. In an age of dwindling conservation funding, we make the case for the value added by exclosures and make recommendations for their continued use as learning tools in complex African savannas.


Keywords

disease; fire; herbaceous layer; herbivory; plant productivity; savanna; species diversity

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