The effect of land use change and management on the vegetation characteristics and termite distribution in Malawian Miombo woodland agroecosystem

  • Harrington NyirendaEmail author
  • Eméline P. S. Assédé
  • Paxie W. Chirwa
  • Coert Geldenhuys
  • Francis W. Nsubuga


Different land uses result in different vegetation condition and macro-fauna distribution in a landscape. Information on land use condition is paramount for development of strategies that enhance biodiversity conservation and sustainable resource use. A study was conducted to characterise the vegetation and termite distribution in the three land use types of protected area (PA), harvested woodland (HW) and traditional agriculture (TA) in Salima District, Malawi. Data were collected from 42 plots on tree species, diameter at breast height, regeneration, termite species and abundance. R Statistical package version 3.4.2 and GenStat Release version 14.2 were used for statistical analyses. There was significantly (p < 0.05) higher tree species diversity and stem density in the HW and TA than in the PA, supposedly, due to a positive tree harvesting effect on tree regeneration in the HW and TA as a form of disturbance. The HW and TA showed stable tree population while PA was characterised with an ageing tree population. Highest similarity on tree species composition was recorded between TA and HW (48%). Regeneration was also significantly higher (p < 0.05) in HW and TA fields than in the PA. Macrotermes natalensis termite species dominated in all land uses with highest density and abundance in TA while Psammotermes allocerus was only found in the HW. We conclude that strict management of forest reserves may not achieve tree diversity; and recommend a ‘suite’ of management measures to balance conservation and promotion of tree diversity. Integrated pest management approach is proposed to prevent field crop losses due to termites.


Tree density Vegetation structure Regeneration Macrotermes natalensis 



We would like to thank the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development for the financial support to carry out this study. Mr. C. Katsache, Mr. E. Ben, Mr. J. Mankhokwe and Mrs. E. Nkhwazi are appreciated for assisting in field data collection.


This study was funded by the Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (Award Number BSF-G-11-00002).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Geoinformatics and MeteorologyUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaRepublic of South Africa
  2. 2.Department of Plant and Soil SciencesUniversity of PretoriaPretoriaRepublic of South Africa
  3. 3.Faculté D’AGRONOMIEUniversité de ParakouParakouBenin

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