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Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU) 2019

Carbon stocks across the Serengeti ecosystem : Impacts of climate, land-use and woody plant cover

Haukenes, Vilde Lytskjold

Titre : Carbon stocks across the Serengeti ecosystem : Impacts of climate, land-use and woody plant cover

Auteur : Haukenes, Vilde Lytskjold

Université de soutenance : Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU)

Grade : Master’s thesis in Natural Resources Management 2019

Given the current rates of human land-use change and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide, it is crucial to ensure efficient management of ecosystems to maximise carbon storage. Specifically, protection of land is a primary conservation approach in face of land-use change, with the added potential to enhance ecosystem carbon storage. In this context, savannahs are important land areas for protection as they cover a large geographical area as well as provide a range of ecosystem services i.e., habitats for abundant wildlife, agricultural land, and grazing land for livestock. However, little attention has been given to how different land-management practices affect savannah ecosystem carbon stocks. In this thesis, we quantified ecosystem carbon stocks in protected areas and adjacent unprotected areas across varying in climatic conditions (i.e., precipitation) and soil types (i.e., soil texture) in the Serengeti ecosystem. We specifically aimed to assess the importance of direct and indirect relationships between major biotic (i.e., herbivore community, soil macro fauna, and woody encroachment) and abiotic (i.e., fire frequencies) drivers of aboveground and belowground carbon stocks. We sampled data on woody, herbaceous, dead wood, A-horizon, and mineral-horizon in a total of seven sites located across gradients of precipitation and land-use. Our results demonstrated that aboveground carbon stocks varied with contrasting land-management practices of protected areas and neighbouring unprotected areas, which remained consistent across soil types and precipitation regimes. Belowground carbon stocks displayed rather marginal percentage differences, however great quantified difference in carbon amount between protected areas and unprotected areas. Belowground, the variation in carbon stocks was more related to the direct effects of herbivore abundance (i.e., dung, trampling) rather than to herbivore foraging effects on aboveground carbon stocks that influence litter inputs into the soil. For the Serengeti ecosystem, ecosystem carbon stocks were mainly related to differences in fire frequencies and herbivore community, and not to woody encroachment. Within this thesis, we highlight the importance of investigating ecosystem carbon stocks across several predictors, to obtain a sufficient understanding of the ecosystem that allow informed management decisions. We suggest that in the Serengeti ecosystem management attention should be given to wild and domestic herbivore interactions, as well as fire impacts to enhance carbon storage inside protected areas and prevent adjacent unprotected areas from becoming depleted of carbon.


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