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Biodiversity & Conservation

, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 283–304 | Cite as

Grasshopper assemblage response to a restored national park (Mountain Zebra National Park, South Africa)

  • S. Gebeyehu
  • M.J. Samways
Article

Abstract

Twelve grassland sites were sampled inside and outside the Mountain Zebra National Park (MZNP), South Africa to assess changes in grasshopper assemblages to grazing by indigenous mammals inside the park compared to grazing by domestic cattle outside. The MZNP has been restored from cattle-grazed farmland to indigenous mammal parkland for 62 years. The number of grasshopper species and families inside the park was not significantly different from outside the park, but the number of individuals inside the park was significantly higher. Multivariate statistics did not reveal any strong site groupings based on simple inside/outside comparisons, but there were clear groupings of sites based on vegetation characteristics and other environmental variables. The park boundary, therefore, does not significantly determine grasshopper assemblages, although intensity of grazing does. The indigenous mammals inside the park had the same effect on grasshoppers as the domestic cattle outside, and it was the level of defoliation and trampling that was important rather than the type of mammal. Intensive livestock grazing and trampling leads to bush encroachment and reduction in grass cover and/or disappearance of several grass species. In response to this pressure, grasshopper populations dropped, with localized extirpation of some species. Vegetation composition and structure, particularly grass height and percentage cover, had a significant effect on grasshopper assemblages. The MZNP is thus an area of localized, elevated grasshopper abundance in comparison with the surrounding farms, and presumably represents a situation prior to the current, intensive farming activities. Such elevated grasshopper abundances are important for maintaining soil quality and hence ecological integrity of this landscape which is poor in organics and nitrogen. The MZNP could be viewed as a centre where species with high mobility may seek refuge from anthropogenic pressures. The MZNP also serves as a reference illustrating the differences between restored-through-natural-succession and anthropogenically disturbed habitats, and compares desirable with undesirable ecosystem changes for herbivorous invertebrates such as grasshoppers.

grasshoppers national park restoration South Africa 

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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2002

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Gebeyehu
    • 1
  • M.J. Samways
    • 1
  1. 1.Invertebrate Conservation Research Centre, School of Botany and ZoologyUniversity of NatalScottsvilleSouth Africa

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