Original Research

Impact of harvesting and fire on Phragmites australis reed quality in Tembe Elephant Park, Maputaland

M.W. van Rooyen, C.A. Tosh, N. van Rooyen, W.S. Matthews, M.J.S. Kellerman
Koedoe | Vol 47, No 1 | a76 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v47i1.76 | © 2004 M.W. van Rooyen, C.A. Tosh, N. van Rooyen, W.S. Matthews, M.J.S. Kellerman | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 18 December 2004 | Published: 18 December 2004

About the author(s)

M.W. van Rooyen, University of Pretoria, South Africa
C.A. Tosh, University of Pretoria, South Africa
N. van Rooyen, University of Pretoria, South Africa
W.S. Matthews, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, South Africa
M.J.S. Kellerman, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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Abstract

In Maputaland, South Africa, the common reed (Phragmites australis) is used extensively for hut building, fencing, craftwork and thatching. As a result of over-harvesting
most reed beds in communal areas have been degraded and are no longer producing reeds of the desired quality. At present the most productive reed beds are all found in
conservation areas. The KwaMsomi area of the Muzi Swamp in the Tembe Elephant Park has been allocated to the Sibonisweni community for harvesting purposes. This
community has recently requested Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife for additional areas for harvesting on the grounds that the current site was no longer yielding reeds of suitable quality. The main objective of this study was therefore to determine whether there was a decline in reed quality in the KwaMsomi harvested area. The results of this
study suggest that harvested areas contained more thin, short reeds than unharvested areas. Fire can be used to increase reed diameter in harvested areas, but will not significantly affect reed height. Ideally, reeds should only be harvested after the active growth period, when most of the nutrient reserves have been translocated to the rhizomes and
the buds are still dormant. To improve reed quality a three-year rotational harvesting programme should be implemented to allow the reeds to recover fully before being harvested again.

Keywords

Common reed; Fire; Harvesting; KwaZulu-Natal; Muzi Swamp; Phragmites australis; Sustainable utilisation

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