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Ecosystems

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 125–136 | Cite as

Are Termite Mounds Always Grazing Hotspots? Grazing Variability with Mound Size, Season and Geology in an African Savanna

  • Justice MuvengwiEmail author
  • Francesca Parrini
  • E. T. F. Witkowski
  • Andrew B. Davies
Article

Abstract

Foraging site selection by large herbivores is influenced by multiple factors varying across landscapes and spatial scales. Termite mounds harbour highly nutritious plants compared with the savanna matrix, making them preferred foraging patches in many savannas. However, it is unknown whether termite mounds equally influence herbivore grazing intensity across geological substrates and mound sizes. These knowledge gaps hamper our ability to draw general trans-ecosystem conclusions about the effect of termite mounds for savanna herbivores. We measured grazing intensity on mounds of three different size classes (small, medium and large) across two geologies with differing soil nutrition (granite and basalt) in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. We recorded measurements across three seasons (hot wet, cool dry and hot dry), and at multiple distances from mounds. Grazing intensity on mounds was higher on nutrient-poor granite than nutrient-rich basalt, and termite mounds of all sizes had a significant effect on grazing on granite during the cool dry season. Grazing was highest on large mounds on both geologies throughout the year. Large mounds also had the largest spatial influence on grazing in the cool dry season, up to 8 m beyond the mound edge on granite and 2 m on basalt. When scaled up to the landscape level, mounds influenced about 15% of the granite landscape, but only about 0.5% of the basalt landscape. Our results show that the positive effects of mounds on grazing intensity were pronounced on nutrient-poor soils but negligible on nutrient-rich soils, and that the magnitude of these effects varied across seasons and with mound size.

Keywords

basalt granite grazing intensity landscape large herbivore nutrient hotspots semi-arid savannas 

Supplementary material

10021_2018_257_MOESM1_ESM.docx (69 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 69 kb)

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Justice Muvengwi
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Francesca Parrini
    • 3
  • E. T. F. Witkowski
    • 1
  • Andrew B. Davies
    • 1
    • 4
  1. 1.Restoration and Conservation Biology Research Group, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  2. 2.Department of Natural ResourcesBindura University of Science EducationBinduraZimbabwe
  3. 3.Centre for African Ecology, School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  4. 4.Department of Global EcologyCarnegie Institution for ScienceStanfordUSA

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