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Nelson Mandela University (2019)

Examining the influence of extrinsic factors on herbivore assemblage composition in a southern African savanna

Young, Cyanne, Smithwick, Erica

Titre : Examining the influence of extrinsic factors on herbivore assemblage composition in a southern African savanna

Auteur : Young, Cyanne, Smithwick, Erica

Université de soutenance : Nelson Mandela University,

Grade : Magister Scientae 2019

Résumé partiel
Globally, herbivore populations have become threatened by the effects of a growing human population. This has resulted in over-hunting, habitat encroachment, fragmentation and degradation and competition leading to the replacement of wild herbivore populations with livestock. African herbivores, in particular, have experienced a severe decline in abundance and distribution, and vast conservation management efforts are underway to preserve herbivore populations and promote their growth. However, conservation management efforts sometimes have unintended consequences on the abundance and distribution of herbivores as a result of the complex interactions they have with their ecosystem. The aim of this study was to : 1) examine the drivers of herbivore distribution at the Satara section of Kruger National Park (hereafter ‘KNP’) at a landscape scale, to determine assemblage composition under the constraints of different environmental attributes ; and 2) examine feeding selection by grazing herbivores of different morpho-physiological characteristics at a patch scale of differing environmental attributes. To achieve this, thirty-six experimental plots were established at three distances from water at Satara, and manipulated by mowing, mowing and fertilising or fertilising only over the course of a year, to account for seasonal effects. Each plot was fitted with a camera trap which ran for five weeks in each sampling season, and the data collected focussed on eleven herbivore species of differing body size, digestive strategy and feeding preference. These species were selected due to their abundance at Satara, and their representation of a variety of morpho-physiological characteristics.

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