Bösing, BM; Haarmeyer, DH; Dengler, J; Ganzhorn, JU; Schmiedel, U: Effects of livestock grazing and habitat characteristics on small mammal communities in the Knersvlakte, South Africa, Journal of Arid Environments, 104, 124-131 (2014), doi:10.1016/j.jaridenv.2014.02.011
Key words: Biodiversity; Live trapping; Namaqualand; Nature conservation; Species richness; Sussulent Karoo; Small mammal; Grazing; South Africa

We studied the influence of different livestock grazing intensities and habitat types on small mammals in
the Knersvlakte, South Africa. The Knersvlakte belongs to the Succulent Karoo Biome, a biodiversity
hotspot. We placed a total of 22 plots in areas of two grazing intensities (moderate and intensive) and
two major habitat types (quartz fields and loamy soils). On these plots, we carried out small-mammal live
trapping (90 traps during four nights) and estimated the cover of different vegetation layers. In total, 140
small mammal individuals from ten species were caught during 7920 trap nights. All species occurred on
loamy soils, but only four in quartz fields. The small-mammal community on intensively-grazed plots
was a subset of that on moderately-grazed plots. The most abundant species on loamy soils were
Macroscelides proboscideus and Rhabdomys pumilio and in quartz fields M. proboscideus and Gerbillurus
paeba. Generalised linear models revealed that habitat type had the strongest influence on abundance
and diversity of small mammals. Vegetation cover mainly had indirect influences, via the habitat type, on
abundance, diversity and the body condition of small mammals. Overall, the intensities of livestock
grazing showed no effect on abundance and diversity.

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