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University of the Witwatersrand (2014)

The influence of pan characteristics on their seasonal usage by mammals within the Makuleke Ramsar Wetland System

Antrobus, Romy

Titre : The influence of pan characteristics on their seasonal usage by mammals within the Makuleke Ramsar Wetland System

Auteur : Antrobus, Romy

Université de soutenance : University of the Witwatersrand

Grade : Master of Science (MS) 2014

Central to the study of animal ecology is the usage an animal makes of its environment. In arid and semi-arid environments worldwide, the availability of surface water largely determines the behaviour, distribution and abundance of animals. As a consequence, the distribution and quality of water are factors that influence carrying capacities of protected areas in environments such as the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Just as wildlife may select water sources according to water quality, they may also select drinking locations according to perceived predation risk. Predation risk can therefore strongly influence the patch use and resource selection of animals. Similarly, human traffic and activity in natural areas can also have an effect on the behaviour and resource use of resident wildlife. This research investigates mammal usage patterns at selected water sources within the Makuleke Wetland System in Kruger National Park to contribute towards management planning for this important Ramsar Wetland Site. The research examines daily and seasonal trends in usage as well as possible links to water quality, land cover and human disturbance. Camera traps were set up seasonally at perennial pans and rivers within the Makuleke Wetland system to determine mammal species’ usage patterns. Environmental characteristics associated with each water source, such as water quality, vegetation cover and extent of human activity were also determined. A cluster analysis and Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA) were run in order to determine how environmental variables may influence mammal species’ seasonal drinking site selection. Overall, mammals appear to be selecting for drinking sites with increased distances to ground cover where they are more likely to see predators in advance. Mammal species appear to be avoiding the Zimbabwean border as a result of human activity in the Zimbabwean side of the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park. The perennial pans and rivers appear to be a significant water source during the dry months to large herbivore and large carnivore species, which display the greatest seasonal fluctuations. Elephants show the greatest demand for water during the dry season and access the perennial water sources throughout the day and night. The Makuleke wetland system, and in particular the perennial water sources, provide an important dry season refuge for the northern Kruger National Park’s and the Greater Limpopo Transfrontier Park’s elephant population. The Luvuvhu River and its associated pan (Nwambe), within its floodplain, are sources of water for the greatest diversity and richness of species when compared to the water sources associated with the Limpopo floodplain, within the Makuleke Wetland System. Information from this study may aid South African National Parks management with their “adaptive management” strategy for Kruger National Park, to manage the park in an ever changing environment. It is widely accepted that emphasis be placed on the major role river systems play in biodiversity, and hence their high priority in conservation


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