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University of Limpopo (2021)

Assessing soil seed bank diversity in bush encroached savanna rangeland, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Rabopape, Mabjalwa Charlotte

Titre : Assessing soil seed bank diversity in bush encroached savanna rangeland, Limpopo Province, South Africa

Auteur : Rabopape, Mabjalwa Charlotte

Université de soutenance : University of Limpopo

Grade : Master of Science (MS) Agriculture (Pasture Science) 2021

Savanna rangelands are ecosystems which are characterized by the co-existence of scattered trees and shrubs with a continuous grass layer. However, the grass and tree balance has been highly altered as a result of disturbances caused by bush encroachment. Encroaching woody species have been shown to decrease species richness and abundance of the seed bank and ground‐layer diversity. So far little is known on the effect of bush encroachment and soil depth on the soil seed bank diversity in savanna rangelands. The objectives of this mini-dissertation were to (1) determine the influence of soil depth on soil seed bank diversity in bush encroached savanna rangelands, and (2) determine the relationships between soil seed bank herbaceous vegetation and physicochemical properties in encroached rangeland. In order to address these objectives, a savanna rangeland was demarcated into two encroachment gradients spanning from open to encroached rangeland. Within each encroachment gradient, six plots of 10 m x 10 m were randomly selected, whereby soil sampling and herbaceous vegetation were carried out and determined. In each replicate plot per encroachment level, five soil samples were randomly collected at 0-10 and 10-20 cm depths. The number of seedlings of different species emerging from the soil samples was used as a measure of the number of viable seeds in the soil and the composition of the seed bank using the seedling emergence method. The total seed densities showed significant differences (P<0.05) in the 0-10 cm depth layer in the open rangeland and encroached rangeland. Bush encroachment significantly (P<0.05) decreased the seed density of perennial grasses, specifically in 0-10 cm depth layer. Further, species diversity increased with bush encroachment in the 10-20 cm depth layer. Menhinick’s richness index showed no significant difference in the open and encroached rangeland, while species evenness decreased in the 0-10 cm depth layer and increased at 10-20 cm depth.The study also revealed negative correlations between organic carbon, calcium, clay, silt and forbs while mean weight diameter (MWD), a measure of soil aggregate stability was positively correlated with forbs. The canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) showed that pH, phosphorus, potassium and calcium were positively correlated to Eragrostis curvula and magnesium was negatively correlated to Panicum maximum. In open rangeland, CCA revealed that clay content was negatively correlated with species evenness while xii magnesium was negatively correlated to the Shannon Weiner index. Further, silt content was positively correlated with species richness and evenness. In the encroached rangeland, the CCA showed a negative correlation between magnesium and the Shannon Weiner index. The Sørensen’s index between soil seed banks and aboveground vegetation was low with index values of 0.22 and 0.24 in open and encroached rangeland, respectively.


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