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Faculty of Biology, Chemistry and Earth Sciences

Chair of Plant Ecology - Prof. Dr. Steven Higgins

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Haarmeyer, DH; Schmiedel, U; Dengler, J; Bösing, BM: How does grazing intensity affect different vegetation types in arid Succulent Karoo, South Africa? Implications for conservation management., Biological Conservation, 143, 588-596 (2010), doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2009.11.008
Key words: Aizoaceae, Biodiversity, Herbivory, Namaqualand, Rangeland management, Systematic conservation planning
The Knersvlakte in the Succulent Karoo Biome (South Africa) is known for its high plant diversity and endemism. In the course of establishing a conservation area there, we assessed baseline data for future management. We investigated the effects of grazing on the vegetation in terms of species diversity and composition as well as reproduction of selected species. Data were sampled on four adjacent farms, which were ungrazed, moderately or intensively grazed by sheep and goats. The data were collected in 27 quartz and 24 non-quartz plots, representing two major habitat types of the region. Within each of the 1000-m2 plots, 100 subplots of 400 cm2 size were sampled. ANOVAs revealed that species richness and abundance of endemic species on quartz fields decreased with grazing. Abundance of annuals did not increase significantly due to grazing. Fidelity analyses indicated that species composition differed between grazing intensities and that the ungrazed and moderately grazed plots both contained unique locally endemic habitat specialists. Reproduction of two endemic dwarf shrubs Drosanthemum schoenlan- dianum and Argyroderma fissum (both Aizoaceae) increased under moderate grazing, which in the case of D. schoenlandianum was interpreted as an effect of grazing. We attribute the low number of seedlings and annuals on the moderately grazed farm to lower seasonal rainfall on these plots. From a conservation per- spective, no or moderate grazing appear to be necessary to preserve plant diversity and vegetation pat- terns, and their underlying processes.
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