Original Research

The influence of fire presence and absence on grass species composition and species richness at Mountain Zebra National Park

Nthabe Munyai, Abel Ramoelo, Samuel Adelabu, Hugo Bezuidenhout
Koedoe | Vol 65, No 1 | a1738 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v65i1.1738 | © 2023 Nthabe Munyai, Abel Ramoelo, Samuel Adelabu, Hugo Bezuidenhout | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 September 2022 | Published: 26 April 2023

About the author(s)

Nthabe Munyai, Department Scientific Services, South African National Parks, Cradock, South Africa; and Department of Geography, Faculty of Natural and Agricultural Sciences, University of Free state, Bloemfontein, South Africa
Abel Ramoelo, Department of Geography, Centre for Environmental Studies, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa
Samuel Adelabu, Department of Geography, Centre for Environmental, Studies, University of Freestate, Bloemfontein,, South Africa
Hugo Bezuidenhout, South African National Parks, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, South Africa

Abstract

It is well known that fire is a common driver in many biomes and it plays a vital role in maintaining ecosystem functioning in many South African biomes. This ecosystem process is an important determinant of plant community composition and diversity, and can result in changes in structural composition and ecosystem functioning. The main objectives of this
study are to determine the influence of fire on grass species richness, diversity and composition in Mountain Zebra National Park. Using satellite imagery, the park’s fire history was determined between 2000 and 2020. Eighty plots (approximately 20 m × 20 m; >100 m apart) were laid out purposively across different fire regimes. There was no significant difference in both species richness and diversity in burned and unburned sites. However, there was a difference in species composition between burned and unburned sites and between different fire frequencies. The unburned site had higher moribund material and unpalatable grasses compared to the burned area.
Conservation implications: The results of this study will help in the completion of the fire management plan for the park which will enable conservation managers to make better decisions with regard to fire management in mountainous grassland at Mountain Zebra National Park. Consequently, this will lead to improved veld condition and vegetation
structure.


Keywords

fire; grassland; species richness; species; diversity species; composition-palatability; ecosystem functioning; grass percentage cover.

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