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Ecological Research

, Volume 32, Issue 6, pp 1023–1033 | Cite as

Influence of abandoned cattle enclosures on plant assemblages and herbivory in a semi-arid savanna

  • Gift Chikorowondo
  • Justice Muvengwi
  • Monicah Mbiba
  • Edson Gandiwa
Original Article

Abstract

In semi-arid savannas, abandoned cattle (Bos taurus) enclosures or kraals have been demonstrated to be nutrient-hotspots for large herbivores. In this study, we examined the interaction between herbivory and forage quality, structure and diversity at 12 kraals (abandoned for 22 years) paired with savanna control plots in Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe. Plant diversity was not different between sites. Herbaceous cover was higher and woody species density lower on abandoned kraals than control plots. Furthermore, abandoned kraals had higher herbaceous productivity and foliar nutrient concentration for grasses than forbs. The abandoned kraals had higher concentration of soil nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), potassium (K), calcium (Ca), magnesium (Mg), sodium (Na), organic carbon (C) compared with control plots and a slightly acidic pH. Grasses were grazed more than forbs on nutrient-rich abandoned kraals. Only herbaceous biomass for grasses had a significant influence on the interaction between plants and herbivory. No clear relationships were observed between forage quality and herbivory and plant species diversity. Abandoned kraals provide patches of nutrient-rich forage, increasing savanna heterogeneity and in turn influence grazing patterns of large herbivores, and therefore influence ecosystem functioning. A conservation monitoring programme is recommended on such nutrient-rich patches as they serve as foraging-hotspots for herbivores in a dystrophic African semi-arid savanna.

Keywords

Abandoned kraals Diversity Forage quality Herbivory and nutrient-hotspots 

Notes

Acknowledgements

Special thanks goes to the management of Save Valley Conservancy, Zimbabwe who allowed us to conduct this research on their property, Natural History Museum, Chemistry and Soil Research Institute and National University of Science and Technology, Zimbabwe for their invaluable assistance in identification of specimens and soil laboratory analyses This study was made possible through the financial support from Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD) scholarship (A1395663) awarded to G.C and a research grant (RB13/05/08) from Bindura University of Science Education awarded to J.M, M.M and G.C. Special thanks goes to Mrs Campbell (Chishakwe Ranch), Mr. Goosen (Sango Ranch) and Dr P. Lindsey (SVC board) for their invaluable support. We appreciate the constructive comments from the editors and two anonymous reviewers.

Supplementary material

11284_2017_1522_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (214 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 214 kb)
11284_2017_1522_MOESM2_ESM.pdf (270 kb)
Supplementary material 2 (PDF 269 kb)

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Copyright information

© The Ecological Society of Japan 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Natural Resources ManagementBindura University of Science EducationBinduraZimbabwe
  2. 2.School of Animal, Plant and Environmental SciencesUniversity of the WitwatersrandJohannesburgSouth Africa
  3. 3.School of Wildlife, Ecology and ConservationChinhoyi University of TechnologyChinhoyiZimbabwe

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