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Bush encroachment in southern Africa: changes and causes

Bush encroachment in southern Africa: changes and causes Bush encroachment has been recognised in southern Africa since the late nineteenth century. Our review of 23 studies showed that the rate of woody cover change has ranged from −0.131 to 1.275% y−1. Encroachment was most rapid on small protected areas, intermediate under commercial tenure, and slowest under communal tenure and large, natural environments with mega-herbivores present. Several drivers of bush encroachment, which interact and change over time, have been proposed. Fires, for example, were actively suppressed during the early twentieth century. However, rainfall interacts with fire and the rate of woody increase under fire exclusion is linearly related to mean annual rainfall. A reduction in browsing herbivores from the nineteenth century would have had a positive cumulative effect on woody cover whilst an increase in grazing herbivores would have reduced the competitive effect of grasses. Encroachment was most rapid during the high rainfall, mid-1970s, which followed the 1960s drought when cattle numbers were at their peak, and the grass layer was degraded. Increasing atmospheric [CO2] and climate change have emerged as important drivers in the recent literature. Bush encroachment depends on the interplay of history, environment, management and vegetation, recognition of which is essential for containing encroachment. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png African Journal of Range & Forage Science Taylor & Francis

Bush encroachment in southern Africa: changes and causes

22 pages

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References (155)

Publisher
Taylor & Francis
Copyright
Copyright © NISC (Pty) Ltd
ISSN
1727-9380
eISSN
1022-0119
DOI
10.2989/10220119.2014.939996
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

Bush encroachment has been recognised in southern Africa since the late nineteenth century. Our review of 23 studies showed that the rate of woody cover change has ranged from −0.131 to 1.275% y−1. Encroachment was most rapid on small protected areas, intermediate under commercial tenure, and slowest under communal tenure and large, natural environments with mega-herbivores present. Several drivers of bush encroachment, which interact and change over time, have been proposed. Fires, for example, were actively suppressed during the early twentieth century. However, rainfall interacts with fire and the rate of woody increase under fire exclusion is linearly related to mean annual rainfall. A reduction in browsing herbivores from the nineteenth century would have had a positive cumulative effect on woody cover whilst an increase in grazing herbivores would have reduced the competitive effect of grasses. Encroachment was most rapid during the high rainfall, mid-1970s, which followed the 1960s drought when cattle numbers were at their peak, and the grass layer was degraded. Increasing atmospheric [CO2] and climate change have emerged as important drivers in the recent literature. Bush encroachment depends on the interplay of history, environment, management and vegetation, recognition of which is essential for containing encroachment.

Journal

African Journal of Range & Forage ScienceTaylor & Francis

Published: May 4, 2014

Keywords: atmospheric CO 2; browsing pressure; demographic bottleneck; fire suppression; livestock trends

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