Vegetation Structure (vegetation + structure)

Distribution by Scientific Domains
Distribution within Life Sciences

Selected Abstracts

Vegetation structure and prey abundance requirements of the Iberian lynx: implications for the design of reserves and corridors

F. Palomares
Summary 1,Habitat alteration and fragmentation are two of the greatest threats to biodiversity. The conservation of most species in highly encroached areas requires reserves that are connected by suitable habitat corridors to increase the effectiveness of the area under protection. However, the quality required for such corridors is still debated. This study investigated the habitat characteristics (vegetation structure and prey abundance) of sites used by resident and dispersing Iberian lynx in south-western Spain. 2,Vegetation structure and an index of rabbit abundance (the staple prey of lynx) were measured at sites used by radio-collared lynx in 1996 and 1997. Data from 128 plots used by resident lynx and 310 plots used by dispersing individuals were compared with data from 162 randomly located plots in sites considered to be unused by lynx. 3.,Resident sites had a lower percentage of tree cover, shorter tree height, higher percentage of tall shrub cover, higher percentage of overall understorey and higher number of rabbit pellets than both dispersal and unused sites. The height of the short shrub layer was taller and the rabbit abundance index was higher in dispersing sites than in unused sites. 4,Gender did not affect habitat selection by lynx. During dispersal, lynx frequently (50% of cases) used vegetation patches narrower than 300 m. In these cases, sites used by lynx had higher understorey cover and taller shrub height than adjacent unused sites. The percentage of short shrub cover used by lynx increased with the length of time taken to disperse; this was the only variable that changed over time. 5,Range size of resident individuals declined significantly with the index of rabbit abundance but increased with the percentage of short shrub cover. Both variables were good predictors of range size. 6,The study shows that corridors connecting reserves do not have to be prime habitats; they can even support moderate habitat degradation due to human activity. This result has implications both for the conservation of existing corridors, and for the restoration of the many corridors between reserves that have been lost. [source]

Rodent assemblage in a habitat mosaic within the Valley Thicket vegetation of the Eastern Cape Province, South Africa

Boris Kry, tufek
Abstract We sampled small mammal assemblage in a mosaic of Valley Thicket vegetation in the Great Fish River Reserve during the summers of 2001 and 2002. Assemblage was dominated by seven rodent species with a single nonrodent species (Elephantulus edwardii) in the 357 trapped specimens. Rhabdomys dilectus was the most abundant in both years, followed by Mus minutoides (ranking 2nd in 2001) and Mastomys coucha (2nd in 2002). These three species, which are widespread generalists, made up 85.0% of the total rodent catch in 2001 and 74.3% in 2002. Individual species were captured on 2,14 sites of a total of 17 and M. minutoides was the most widespread. The majority of samples consisted of two (ten sites in a pooled sample for 2 years) or three species (ten sites). Significant morphological structuring was found only in two-species samples. Species turnover was high both among sites and between the 2 years. We found no evidence of significant nested structure which would suggest hierarchical sets of ecological relationships among the species. Vegetation structure explained better than species interactions, the population variables in the rodent assemblage. Résumé Nous avons échantillonné l'assemblage de petits mammifères dans une mosaïque végétale de Valley Thicket dans la Great Fish River Reserve au cours des étés de 2001 et 2002. L'assemblage des 357 spécimens attrapés était dominé par sept espèces de rongeurs et une autre espèce (Elephantulus edwardii). Rhabdomys dilectusétait l'espèce la plus abondante les deux années, suivie par Mus minutoides (classé 2ème en 2001) et par Mastomys coucha (2ème en 2002). Ces trois espèces, qui sont des espèces généralistes très répandues, représentaient 85,0% des prises totales de rongeurs en 2001 et 74,3% en 2002. Les espèces individuelles furent capturées sur deux à 14 sites sur un total de 17, et Mus minutoidesétait la plus répandue. La majorité des échantillons se composaient de deux (10 sites sur un échantillonnage groupé de deux ans) ou trois espèces (dix sites). On n'a découvert de structure morphologique significative que dans des échantillons de deux espèces. Le turnover des espèces était élevé entre les différents sites et entre les années. Nous n'avons trouvé aucune preuve d'une structure significative qui puisse suggérer l'existence de relations hiérarchiques écologiques entre les espèces. La structure de la végétation expliquait mieux que les interactions interspécifiques les variables des populations de l'assemblage des rongeurs. [source]

Structure and composition of Acacia xanthophloea woodland in Lake Nakuru National Park, Kenya

N. Dharani
Abstract The woody vegetation of Lake Nakuru National Park occurs along rivers, lakeshores and flood plains. Four different sites within the Acacia xanthophloea woodlands were selected for the study. Vegetation structure was not significantly different in the four woodlands used for the study, but these sites differed in the relative density of Acacia trees. Regeneration of A. xanthophloea differed in each site, with the highest regeneration rates found in the nonfenced plots where browsing took place. Résumé La végétation ligneuse du Parc National de Nakuru se trouve le long des cours d'eau, sur les berges du lac et dans les plaines inondables. Nous avons sélectionné quatre sites dans les zones arborées àAcacia xanthophloea. La structure da la végétation n'était pas significativement différente dans les quatre forêts sélectionnées pour l'étude, mais ces sites différaient quant à la densité relative d'acacias. La régénération des Acacia xanthophloea différait sur chaque site, et le taux de régénération était le plus élevé dans les plots non clôturés fréquentés par les herbivores. [source]

Does attraction to conspecifics explain the patch-size effect?

OIKOS, Issue 8 2009
An experimental test
Recent theory suggests that attraction to conspecifics during habitat selection can be one potential, yet untested, mechanism for animal sensitivity to habitat fragmentation. The least flycatcher Empidonax minimus, a highly territorial migratory bird, has previously been shown to be attracted to conspecifics and sensitive to patch size by avoiding small patches of riparian forest in Montana, USA. I used a large-scale field experiment in this region to test the conspecific attraction hypothesis for explaining sensitivity to patch size, and I supplemented this experiment by estimating whether vegetation structure, nest predation, or nest parasitism rates could better explain patterns of sensitivity to patch size. Vegetation structure did not vary consistently with patch size, based on a random sample of patches across 150,km of the Madison and Missouri Rivers, Montana. Nest predation and parasitism rates by brown-headed cowbirds Molothrus ater also did not vary with patch size during the experiment. However, when conspecific cues were simulated across a gradient of patch sizes, flycatchers settled in all patches , and their sensitivity to patch size vanished , providing strong support for the conspecific attraction hypothesis. These results provide the first experimental evidence that attraction to conspecifics can indeed help explain area sensitivity in nature and highlight how understanding the role of animal behavior in heterogeneous landscapes can aid in interpreting pressing conservation issues. [source]

Vegetation structure and biodiversity along the eucalypt forest to rainforest continuum on the serpentinite soil catena in a subhumid area of Central Queensland, Australia

Abstract The deep lateritic earths that cap the serpentinite outcrop in the Rockhampton , Marlborough area on the Tropic of Capricorn in Central Queensland have been eroded to expose the underlying ultramafic rock. Water-holding capacity of these nutrient-poor soils increases in a gradient from the skeletal soils to the deep lateritic earths and results in a continuum of structural formations from open-woodland to woodland to open-forest. A couple of closed-forest (rainforest) stands have developed where seepage into Marlborough Creek occurs throughout the year. Aerodynamic fluxes (frictional, thermal and evaporative) in the atmosphere as it flows over and through the vegetation influence the annual foliage growth in all strata in the continuum from skeletal soils to deep lateritic earths. The lateral growth of each plant is abraded so that the sum of the foliage projective covers of overstorey (FPCo) and understorey (FPCu) strata , that is ,(FPCo + FPCu) , remains constant throughout the serpentinite soil catena. As more water becomes available in the soil catena, the mineral nutrient levels in overstorey leaves increase, making developing leaves more vulnerable to insect attack. Although the number of leaves produced annually on each vertical foliage shoot in the overstorey increases along the soil-water gradient, ,(FPCo + FPCu) remains constant in all stands. The carbon isotope ratios (a measure of stomatal resistance) and leaf specific weights (LSWs) (a measure of the proportion of structural to cytoplasmic content in a leaf) of overstorey and understorey strata, however, are constant throughout the continuum. The well-watered rainforest pockets , where seepage occurs , form the end point of this serpentinite continuum. LSWs and carbon isotope ratios of the canopy trees are similar to those in the sheltered understorey in the eucalypt communities. A gradient of foliage attributes is observed from evergreen canopy trees (12 m) to subshrubs (2 m) in the sunlit life forms that compose the complex structure of the rainforest stands in the humid to subhumid climate of Central Queensland. As alpha diversity (number of species per hectare) is correlated with annual shoot growth per hectare, species richness along the serpentinite continuum is almost half that of nearby plant communities on medium-nutrient soils. The one to two eucalypt species per hectare are about a tenth of the number recorded on adjacent medium-nutrient soils. [source]

Microhabitat Selection of three Forest Understory Birds in the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest

BIOTROPICA, Issue 3 2010
Miriam M. Hansbauer
ABSTRACT When assessing fragmentation effects on species, not only habitat preferences on the landscape scale, but also microhabitat selection is an important factor to consider, as microhabitat is also affected by habitat disturbance, but nevertheless essential for species for foraging, nesting and sheltering. In the Atlantic Rainforest of Brazil we examined microhabitat selection of six Pyriglena leucoptera (white-shouldered fire-eye), 10 Sclerurus scansor (rufous-breasted leaftosser), and 30 Chiroxiphia caudata (blue manakin). We radio-tracked the individuals between May 2004 and February 2005 to gain home ranges based on individual fixed kernels. Vegetation structures in core plots and fringe plots were compared. In C. caudata, we additionally assessed the influence of behavioural traits on microhabitat selection. Further, we compared microhabitat structures in the fragmented forest with those in the contiguous, and contrasted the results with the birds' preferences. Pyriglena leucoptera preferred liana tangles that were more common in the fragmented forest, whereas S. scansor preferred woody debris, open forest floor (up to 0.5 m), and a thin closed leaf litter cover which all occurred significantly more often in the contiguous forest. Significant differences were detected in C. caudata for vegetation densities in the different strata; the distance of core plots to the nearest lek site was significantly influenced by sex and age. However, core sites of C. caudata in fragmented and contiguous forests showed no significant differences in structure. Exploring microhabitat selection and behavior may greatly support the understanding of habitat selection of species and their susceptibility to fragmentation on the landscape scale. Abstract in Portuguese is available at [source]

Influence of Temporal Scale of Sampling on Detection of Relationships between Invasive Plants and the Diversity Patterns of Plants and Butterflies

But monitoring is often neglected because it can be expensive and time-consuming. Accordingly, it is valuable to determine whether the temporal extent of sampling alters the validity of inferences about the response of diversity measures to environmental variables affected by restoration actions. Non-native species alter ecosystems in undesirable ways, frequently homogenizing flora and fauna and extirpating local populations of native species. In the Mojave Desert, invasion of salt-cedar (Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb.) and human efforts to eradicate salt-cedar have altered vegetation structure, vegetation composition, and some measures of faunal diversity. We examined whether similar inferences about relationships between plants and butterflies in the Muddy River drainage (Nevada, U.S.A.) could have been obtained by sampling less intensively (fewer visits per site over the same period of time) or less extensively (equal frequency of visits but over a more limited period of time). We also tested whether rank order of butterfly species with respect to occurrence rate (proportion of sites occupied) would be reflected accurately in temporal subsamples. Temporal subsampling did not lead to erroneous inferences about the relative importance of six vegetation-based predictor variables on the species richness of butterflies. Regardless of the temporal scale of sampling, the species composition of butterflies was more similar in sites with similar species composition of plants. The rank order of occurrence of butterfly species in the temporal subsamples was highly correlated with the rank order of species occurrence in the full data set. Thus, similar inferences about associations between vegetation and butterflies and about relative occurrence rates of individual species of butterflies could be obtained by less intensive or extensive temporal sampling. If compromises between temporal intensity and extent of sampling must be made, our results suggest that maximizing temporal extent will better capture variation in biotic interactions and species occurrence. Resumen:,El monitoreo es un componente importante de los esfuerzos de restauración y de manejo adoptivo. Pero el monitoreo a menudo es desatendido porque puede ser costoso y consume tiempo. En consecuencia, es valioso determinar si la extensión temporal del muestreo altera la validez de inferencias sobre la respuesta de medidas de diversidad a variables ambientales afectadas por acciones de restauración. Las especies no nativas alteran a los ecosistemas de manera indeseable, frecuentemente homogenizan la flora y fauna y extirpan poblaciones locales de especies nativas. En el Desierto Mojave, la invasión de Tamarix ramosissima Ledeb. y los esfuerzos humanos para erradicarla han alterado la estructura y composición de la vegetación y algunas medidas de diversidad de fauna. Examinamos si se podían obtener inferencias similares sobre las relaciones entre plantas y mariposas en la cuenca Muddy River (Nevada, E.U.A.) muestreando menos intensivamente (menos visitas por sitio en el mismo período de tiempo) o menos extensivamente (igual frecuencia de visitas pero sobre un período de tiempo más limitado). También probamos si el orden jerárquico de especies de mariposas con respecto a la tasa de ocurrencia (proporción de sitios ocupados) se reflejaba con precisión en las submuestras temporales. El submuestreo temporal no condujo a inferencias erróneas acerca de la importancia relativa de seis variables predictivas basadas en vegetación sobre la riqueza de especies de mariposas. A pesar de la escala temporal del muestreo, la composición de especies de mariposas fue más similar en sitios con composición de especies de plantas similar. El orden jerárquico de ocurrencia de especies de mariposas en las muestras subtemporales estuvo muy correlacionado con el orden jerárquico de ocurrencia de especies en todo el conjunto de datos. Por lo tanto, se pudieron obtener inferencias similares de las asociaciones entre vegetación y mariposas y de las tasas de ocurrencia relativa de especies individuales de mariposas con muestreo temporal menos intensivo o extensivo. Si se deben hacer compromisos entre la intensidad y extensión de muestreo temporal, nuestros resultados sugieren que la maximización de la extensión temporal capturará la variación en interacciones bióticas y ocurrencia de especies más adecuadamente. [source]

Grazing Intensity and the Diversity of Grasshoppers, Butterflies, and Trap-Nesting Bees and Wasps

Andreas Kruess
The reduction of management intensity can be a useful tool for the long-term conservation of the biological diversity of grasslands. We analyzed floral and faunal diversity on intensively and extensively (unintensively) grazed pastures and on 5- to 10-year-old ungrazed grasslands in northern Germany. Each of the three grassland habitats differing in grazing intensity was replicated six times. We related diverse taxa such as grasshoppers, butterfly adults and lepidopteran larvae, and trap-nesting solitary bees and wasps to vegetation structure. There was an increase of species richness and abundance from pastures to ungrazed grasslands. The percentage of parasitism of the most abundant trap-nesting species, the digger-wasp ( Trypoxylon figulus), was also higher on ungrazed grasslands. Decreased grazing on pastures enhanced species richness for adult butterflies only, whereas the abundance of adult butterflies, solitary bees and wasps, and their natural enemies increased. Although the differences in insect diversity between pastures and ungrazed grassland could be attributed to a greater vegetation height and heterogeneity ( bottom-up effects) on ungrazed areas, the differences between intensively and extensively grazed pastures could not be explained by changes in vegetation characteristics. Hence, intensive grazing appeared to affect the insect communities through the disruption of plant-insect interactions. A mosaic of extensively grazed grassland and grassland left ungrazed for a few years may be a good means by which to maintain biodiversity and the strength of trophic interactions. Resumen: El mantenimiento de pastizales como hábitats distintos depende del manejo regular, generalmente, por medio de pastoreo o segado, pero se sabe que la diversidad de especies declina con el incremento de intensidad de manejo. La reducción de la intensidad de manejo puede ser una herramienta útil para la conservación a largo plazo de la biodiversidad de pastizales. Analizamos la diversidad florística y faunística en pastizales pastoreados intensiva y extensivamente (no intensivos) y en pastizales de 5 a 10 años no pastoreados en el norte de Alemania. Cada uno de los tres hábitats de pastizal diferentes en el grado de pastoreo fue replicado seis veces. Relacionamos diversos taxones como chapulines, mariposas adultas, larvas de lepidópteros y abejas y avispas solitarias con la estructura de la vegetación. Hubo un incremento en la riqueza y abundancia de especies de pastizales pastoreados a no pastoreados. El porcentaje de parasitismo de la especie de avispa más abundante ( Trypoxylon figulus) también fue mayor en pastizales no pastoreados. La reducción del pastoreo incrementó la riqueza de especies de mariposas adultas solamente, mientras que incrementó la abundancia de mariposas adultas, abejas y avispas solitarias y sus enemigos naturales. Aunque las diferencias en la diversidad de insectos entre pastizales pastoreados y no pastoreados pudiera atribuirse a la mayor altura de la vegetación y a la heterogeneidad (efectos abajo-arriba) en áreas no pastoreadas, las diferencias entre pastizales pastoreados intensiva y extensivamente no podría explicarse por cambios en las características de la vegetación. Por consiguiente, el pastoreo intensivo aparentemente afectó a las comunidades de insectos por la disrupción de las interacciones planta-animal. Un mosaico de pastizales pastoreados extensivamente y pastizales sin pastoreo por varios años puede ser una buena estrategia para mantener la biodiversidad y la vigencia de las interacciones tróficas. [source]

Impacts of a woody invader vary in different vegetation communities

T. J. Mason
Abstract The impact of an exotic species in natural systems may be dependent not only on invader attributes but also on characteristics of the invaded community. We examined impacts of the invader bitou bush, Chrysanthemoides monilifera ssp. rotundata, in fore and hind dune communities of coastal New South Wales, Australia. We compared invader impacts on vegetation structure, richness of both native and exotic growth forms and community variability in fore and hind dunes. We found that impacts of bitou invasion were context specific: in fore dune shrublands, functionally distinct graminoid, herb and climber rather than shrub growth forms had significantly reduced species richness following bitou invasion. However, in forested hind dunes, the functionally similar native shrub growth form had significantly reduced species richness following bitou invasion. Density of vegetation structure increased at the shrub level in both fore and hind dune invaded communities compared with non-invaded communities. Fore dune ground-level vegetation density declined at invaded sites compared with non-invaded sites, reflecting significant reductions in herb and graminoid species richness. Hind dune canopy-level vegetation density was reduced at invaded compared with non-invaded sites. Bitou bush invasion also affected fore dune community variability with significant increases in variability of species abundances observed in invaded compared with non-invaded sites. In contrast, variability among all hind dune sites was similar. The results suggest that effects of bitou bush invasion are mediated by the vegetation community. When bitou bush becomes abundant, community structure and functioning may be compromised. [source]

Stream communities across a rural,urban landscape gradient

Mark C. Urban
ABSTRACT Rapid urbanization throughout the world is expected to cause extensive loss of biodiversity in the upcoming decades. Disturbances associated with urbanization frequently operate over multiple spatial scales such that local species extirpations have been attributed both to localized habitat degradation and to regional changes in land use. Urbanization also may shape stream communities by restricting species dispersal within and among stream reaches. In this patch-dynamics view, anthropogenic disturbances and isolation jointly reduce stream biodiversity in urbanizing landscapes. We evaluated predictions of stream invertebrate community composition and abundance based on variation in environmental conditions at five distinct spatial scales: stream habitats, reaches, riparian corridors and watersheds and their spatial location within the larger three-river basin. Despite strong associations between biodiversity loss and human density in this study, local stream habitat and stream reach conditions were poor predictors of community patterns. Instead, local community diversity and abundance were more accurately predicted by riparian vegetation and watershed landscape structure. Spatial coordinates associated with instream distances provided better predictions of stream communities than any of the environmental data sets. Together, results suggest that urbanization in the study region was associated with reduced stream invertebrate diversity through the alteration of landscape vegetation structure and patch connectivity. These findings suggest that maintaining and restoring watershed vegetation corridors in urban landscapes will aid efforts to conserve freshwater biodiversity. [source]

Patterns of spatial autocorrelation of assemblages of birds, floristics, physiognomy, and primary productivity in the central Great Basin, USA

Erica Fleishman
ABSTRACT We fitted spatial autocorrelation functions to distance-based data for assemblages of birds and for three attributes of birds' habitats at 140 locations, separated by up to 65 km, in the Great Basin (Nevada, USA). The three habitat characteristics were taxonomic composition of the vegetation, physical structure of the vegetation, and a measure of primary productivity, the normalized difference vegetation index, estimated from satellite imagery. We found that a spherical model was the best fit to data for avifaunal composition, vegetation composition, and primary productivity, but the distance at which spatial correlation effectively was zero differed substantially among data sets (c. 30 km for birds, 20 km for vegetation composition, and 60 km for primary productivity). A power-law function was the best fit to data for vegetation structure, indicating that the structure of vegetation differed by similar amounts irrespective of distance between locations (up to the maximum distance measured). Our results suggested that the spatial structure of bird assemblages is more similar to vegetation composition than to either vegetation structure or primary productivity, but is autocorrelated over larger distances. We believe that the greater mobility of birds compared with plants may be responsible for this difference. [source]

The role of environmental gradients in non-native plant invasion into burnt areas of Yosemite National Park, California

Rob Klinger
ABSTRACT Fire is known to facilitate the invasion of many non-native plant species, but how invasion into burnt areas varies along environmental gradients is not well-understood. We used two pre-existing data sets to analyse patterns of invasion by non-native plant species into burnt areas along gradients of topography, soil and vegetation structure in Yosemite National Park, California, USA. A total of 46 non-native species (all herbaceous) were recorded in the two data sets. They occurred in all seven of the major plant formations in the park, but were least common in subalpine and upper montane conifer forests. There was no significant difference in species richness or cover of non-natives between burnt and unburnt areas for either data set, and environmental gradients had a stronger effect on patterns of non-native species distribution, abundance and species composition than burning. Cover and species richness of non-natives had significant positive correlations with slope (steepness) and herbaceous cover, while species richness had significant negative correlations with elevation, the number of years post-burn, and cover of woody vegetation. Non-native species comprised a relatively minor component of the vegetation in both burnt and unburnt areas in Yosemite (percentage species = 4%, mean cover < 6.0%), and those species that did occur in burnt areas tended not to persist over time. The results indicate that in many western montane ecosystems, fire alone will not necessarily result in increased rates of invasion into burnt areas. However, it would be premature to conclude that non-native species could not affect post-fire succession patterns in these systems. Short fire-return intervals and high fire severity coupled with increased propagule pressure from areas used heavily by humans could still lead to high rates of invasion, establishment and spread even in highly protected areas such as Yosemite. [source]

Beta diversity of geometrid moths (Lepidoptera: Geometridae) in an Andean montane rainforest

Gunnar Brehm
Abstract. Turnover in species composition of the extremely species-rich family Geometridae (Lepidoptera) was investigated along an elevational gradient ranging from 1040 m to 2677 m above sea level. Moths were sampled using weak light traps (30 W) in three field periods in 1999 and 2000 in an Andean montane rainforest in the province of Zamora-Chinchipe in southern Ecuador. A total of 13 938 specimens representing 1010 species were analysed. Similarities of ensembles of all geometrid moths and of the subfamilies Ennominae and Larentiinae were calculated using the NESS index (with mmax). Ordinations performed using nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMDS) and correspondence analysis depicted a gradual change of the ensembles along the altitudinal gradient. Extracted ordination scores significantly correlate with altitude (,0.97 , r , ,0.95, P < 0.001) and with ambient air temperature (0.93 , r , 0.97, P < 0.001). Temperature is therefore assumed to be the most important abiotic determinant responsible for the species turnover among the moths. Matrix correlation tests were performed in order to compare faunal matrices with matrices derived from available environmental factors. Both tree diversity and vegetation structure significantly correlate with faunal data, but tree diversity explains considerably more of the data variability (range: Mantel r = 0.81,0.83, P < 0.001) than vegetation structure (range: Mantel r = 0.35, P < 0.005 to r = 0.43, P < 0.001). Tree diversity also changes gradually and scores of the first NMDS dimension are highly significantly correlated with altitude (r = 0.98, P < 0.001). A common underlying factor such as ambient temperature might also be responsible for such vegetation changes. Additionally, simulated model data was developed that assumed a constant turnover of moth species and equal elevational ranges of all species involved. Despite the simplicity of the models, they fit empirical data very well (Mantel r > 0.80 and P < 0.001 in all models). [source]

Cenozoic environmental change in South America as indicated by mammalian body size distributions (cenograms)

Darin A. Croft
Abstract. A cenogram is a rank-ordered body size distribution of non-predatory terrestrial mammal species within a community. Studies of cenograms for modern faunas have shown that certain quantifiable attributes of cenograms are correlated with environmental variables such as rainfall and vegetation structure. Based on these correlations, cenograms of fossil communities have been used to infer palaeoenvironments and palaeoenvironmental variables. The present study uses cenogram statistics to interpret palaeoenvironmental conditions for eight Cenozoic South American mammal faunas, ranging from Eocene to Pleistocene in age. Body sizes for fossil taxa were taken either from the literature or were estimated using regressions of body size on molar length (or femoral bicondylar width) for modern mammals. Cenogram statistics are calculated for the eight fossil faunas and compared to similar statistics calculated for 16 modern South American mammal faunas, allowing palaeoenvironmental interpretations to be made. The palaeoenvironmental interpretations based on cenogram analyses sometimes support and sometimes contradict interpretations based on herbivore craniodental morphology (e.g. levels of hypsodonty). Simulations of expected errors in body size estimates for fossil taxa suggest that the discrepancies do not result primarily from erroneous body size estimates. It is possible that some of the incongruity in interpretations results from certain non-analogue attributes of South American faunas during much of the Cenozoic (e.g. the relatively depauperate mammalian predator diversity prior to the Great American Biotic Interchange). [source]

Effects of plant diversity, plant productivity and habitat parameters on arthropod abundance in montane European grasslands

ECOGRAPHY, Issue 4 2005
Jörg Perner
Arthropod abundance has been hypothesized to be correlated with plant diversity but the results of previous studies have been equivocal. In contrast, plant productivity, vegetation structure, abiotic site conditions, and the physical disturbance of habitats, are factors that interact with plant diversity, and that have been shown to influence arthropod abundance. We studied the combined effect of plant species diversity, productivity and site characteristics on arthropod abundance in 71 managed grasslands in central Germany using multivariate statistics. For each site we determined plant species cover, plant community biomass (productivity), macro- and micronutrients in the soil, and characterized the location of sites with respect to orographic parameters as well as the current and historic management regimes. Arthropods were sampled using a suction sampler and classified a priori into functional groups (FGs). We found that arthropod abundance was not correlated with plant species richness, effective diversity or Camargo's evenness, even when influences of environmental variables were taken into account. In contrast, plant community composition was highly correlated with arthropod abundances. Plant community productivity influenced arthropod abundance but explained only a small proportion of the variance. The abundances of the different arthropod FGs were influenced differentially by agricultural management, soil characteristics, vegetation structure and by interactions between different FGs of arthropods. Herbivores, carnivores and detritivores reacted differently to variation in environmental variables in a manner consistent with their feeding mode. Our results show that in natural grassland systems arthropod abundance is not a simple function of plant species richness, and they emphasize the important role of plant community composition for the abundance patterns of the arthropod assemblages. [source]

Ecohydrological controls on snowmelt partitioning in mixed-conifer sub-alpine forests

ECOHYDROLOGY, Issue 2 2009
Noah P. Molotch
Abstract We used co-located observations of snow depth, soil temperature, and moisture and energy fluxes to monitor variability in snowmelt infiltration and vegetation water use at mixed-conifer sub-alpine forest sites in the Valles Caldera, New Mexico (3020 m) and on Niwot Ridge, Colorado (3050 m). At both sites, vegetation structure largely controlled the distribution of snow accumulation with 29% greater accumulation in open versus under-canopy locations. Snow ablation rates were diminished by 39% in under-canopy locations, indicating increases in vegetation density act to extend the duration of the snowmelt season. Similarly, differences in climate altered snow-season duration, snowmelt infiltration and evapotranspiration. Commencement of the growing season was coincident with melt-water input to the soil and lagged behind springtime increases in air temperature by 12 days on average, ranging from 2 to 33 days under warmer and colder conditions, respectively. Similarly, the timing of peak soil moisture was highly variable, lagging behind springtime increases in air temperature by 42 and 31 days on average at the Colorado and New Mexico sites, respectively. Latent heat flux and associated evaporative loss to the atmosphere was 28% greater for the year with earlier onset of snowmelt infiltration. Given the large and variable fraction of precipitation that was partitioned into water vapour loss, the combined effects of changes in vegetation structure, climate and associated changes to the timing and magnitude of snowmelt may have large effects on the partitioning of snowmelt into evapotranspiration, surface runoff and ground water recharge. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. [source]

Sampling subterranean termite species diversity and activity in tropical savannas: an assessment of different bait choices

Tracy Z. Dawes-Gromadzki
Abstract., 1.,Cellulose baits are commonly used for semi-quantitative sampling of subterranean wood-feeding termites, with a single food choice sampling programme implemented most often. In most situations, however, the composition and feeding preferences of the subterranean termite assemblage remain unknown. 2.,The diversity, frequency, foraging activity, and intensity of attack of termites were assessed regularly at 144 baits representing 12 different bait choices over 8.5 months, in two northern Australian tropical savanna sites that differed in vegetation structure (closed vs open). Baits differed in type (paper rolls, cardboard, wooden stakes), position (surface, buried), and moisture status at installation (wet, dry). 3.,Sixteen species were recorded, including 11 wood-feeders. Average species diversity, foraging activity, and bait consumption were greater at buried baits than at surface baits. Wooden baits were most attractive early in the experiment, and paper baits more attractive later. Mean species diversity was greatest at wooden stakes in the closed site. Species frequency of occurrence varied across bait choices. 4.,A composite bait sampling protocol of stakes and paper rolls installed above and below ground gave an accurate assessment of the activity, diversity, and structure of the termite guild sampled across all baits over 8.5 months. 5.,The choice of bait, its presentation, and time of examination are critical to the success of a termite baiting programme. If the aim is to characterise the structure and foraging activity of the subterranean termite assemblages that are attracted to baits, composite baiting protocols should be implemented. [source]

Endemic species and ecosystem sensitivity to climate change in Namibia

Abstract We present a first assessment of the potential impacts of anthropogenic climate change on the endemic flora of Namibia, and on its vegetation structure and function, for a projected climate in ,2050 and ,2080. We used both niche-based models (NBM) to evaluate the sensitivity of 159 endemic species to climate change (of an original 1020 plant species modeled) and a dynamic global vegetation model (DGVM) to assess the impacts of climate change on vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning. Endemic species modeled by NBM are moderately sensitive to projected climate change. Fewer than 5% are predicted to experience complete range loss by 2080, although more than 47% of the species are expected to be vulnerable (range reduction >30%) by 2080 if they are assumed unable to migrate. Disaggregation of results by life-form showed distinct patterns. Endemic species of perennial herb, geophyte and tree life-formsare predicted to be negatively impacted in Namibia, whereas annual herb and succulent endemic species remain relatively stable by 2050 and 2080. Endemic annual herb species are even predicted to extend their range north-eastward into the tree and shrub savanna with migration, and tolerance of novel substrates. The current protected area network is predicted to meet its mandate by protecting most of the current endemicity in Namibia into the future. Vegetation simulated by DGVM is projected to experience a reduction in cover, net primary productivity and leaf area index throughout much of the country by 2050, with important implications for the faunal component of Namibia's ecosystems, and the agricultural sector. The plant functional type (PFT) composition of the major biomes may be substantially affected by climate change and rising atmospheric CO2, currently widespread deciduous broad leaved trees and C4 PFTs decline, with the C4 PFT particularly negatively affected by rising atmospheric CO2 impacts by ,2080 and deciduous broad leaved trees more likely directly impacted by drying and warming. The C3 PFT may increase in prominence in the northwestern quadrant of the country by ,2080 as CO2 concentrations increase. These results suggest that substantial changes in species diversity, vegetation structure and ecosystem functioning can be expected in Namibia with anticipated climate change, although endemic plant richness may persist in the topographically diverse central escarpment region. [source]

Regional scale relationships between ecosystem structure and functioning: the case of the Patagonian steppes

GLOBAL ECOLOGY, Issue 5 2004
José M. Paruelo
ABSTRACT Aims, 1. To characterize ecosystem functioning by focusing on above-ground net primary production (ANPP), and 2. to relate the spatial heterogeneity of both functional and structural attributes of vegetation to environmental factors and landscape structure. We discuss the relationship between vegetation structure and functioning found in Patagonia in terms of the capabilities of remote sensing techniques to monitor and assess desertification. Location, Western portion of the Patagonian steppes in Argentina (39°30, S to 45°27, S). Methods, We used remotely-sensed data from Landsat TM and AVHRR/NOAA sensors to characterize vegetation structure (physiognomic units) and ecosystem functioning (ANPP and its seasonal and interannual variation). We combined the satellite information with floristic relevés and field estimates of ANPP. We built an empirical relationship between the Landsat TM-derived normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) and field ANPP. Using stepwise regressions we explored the relationship between ANPP and both environmental variables (precipitation and temperature surrogates) and structural attributes of the landscape (proportion and diversity of different physiognomic classes (PCs)). Results, PCs were quite heterogeneous in floristic terms, probably reflecting degradation processes. Regional estimates of ANPP showed differences of one order of magnitude among physiognomic classes. Fifty percent of the spatial variance in ANPP was accounted for by longitude, reflecting the dependency of ANPP on precipitation. The proportion of prairies and semideserts, latitude and, to a lesser extent, the number of PCs within an 8 × 8 km cell accounted for an additional 33% of the ANPP variability. ANPP spatial heterogeneity (calculated from Landsat TM data) within an 8 × 8 km cell was positively associated with the mean AVHRR/NOAA NDVI and with the diversity of physiognomic classes. Main conclusions, Our results suggest that the spatial and temporal patterns of ecosystem functioning described from ANPP result not only from water availability and thermal conditions but also from landscape structure (proportion and diversity of different PCs). The structural classification performed using remotely-sensed data captured the spatial variability in physiognomy. Such capability will allow the use of spectral classifications to monitor desertification. [source]

Structural heterogeneity and productivity of a tall fescue pasture grazed rotationally by cattle at four stocking densities

Maria Silvia Cid
Abstract The spatial heterogeneity in the structure and the productivity of the vegetation was examined in a tall fescue (Festuca arundinacea Schreb.) pasture rotationally grazed at four stocking densities in the Pampean region of Argentina. The examined pasture was grazed at the stocking densities of 3.6, 4.6, 5.6 and 6.6 animals ha,1 with a two-paddock 14-day rotational grazing system. Spatial distribution of plant height was examined as well as the percentages of short patch area (heavily utilized patches) or tall patch area (areas ungrazed or lightly defoliated). In addition, biomass, growth rate and relative growth rate were assessed for both short and tall patches. Grazing generated patchiness in vegetation structure and growth at all stocking densities. Increased stocking density caused an increase in the percentage of the short patch area in the paddocks. Short patches had relatively less live biomass than tall ones, but their relative growth rate was 31% higher than that of tall patches (0.021 ± 0.007 vs 0.016 ± 0.005 g DM g DM,1 day,1). The increase in stocking density enlarged the proportion of short patch areas with higher relative growth rate. The relative growth rate (average between short and tall patches) of the two highest stocking densities was 61.7% higher than that of the low stocking density treatments (0.023 ± 0.006 vs 0.014 ± 0.004 g DM g DM,1 day,1). Although the growth rate of the short patches did not exceed the value of the tall patches, the high value of relative growth rate appeared to indicate a higher photosynthetic capacity of the short patches. Moreover, live biomass did not decrease during the experimental period even in the short patch areas showing that, in the particular conditions of our study, overgrazing did not occur at the range of the stocking density examined. [source]

The contribution of invertebrate taxa to moorland bird diets and the potential implications of land-use management

IBIS, Issue 4 2006
We reviewed the literature to determine the importance of invertebrates for moorland-breeding birds and considered our findings with respect to the conservation of such species in the UK. The diets of many moorland birds consist predominantly of invertebrates, with a wide range of taxa recorded in the diets of moorland birds during the breeding season. Relatively few taxa (Arachnida, Coleoptera, Diptera, Hemiptera, Hymenoptera, Lepidoptera and Oligochaeta) were widely taken, with Diptera and Coleoptera being the most important. Among these latter two insect orders, Carabidae, Curculionidae, Elateridae and Tipulidae were the most important families. Comparisons of the diets of bird families, treated separately according to whether data were derived from adults or chicks, showed that waders take more interstitial invertebrates than passerines, which themselves take more foliage invertebrates. Although we lack detailed experimental data with which to demonstrate the direct effect of particular moorland management prescriptions on some of these key invertebrate taxa for breeding birds, available data suggest that management regimes that create a mosaic of habitats are likely to be most beneficial. In particular, heterogeneity in vegetation structure and species composition, and the presence of wet flushes associated with the synchronized spring emergence of adults of certain insect species, are likely to increase invertebrate food resources for birds. [source]

Vegetation structure and prey abundance requirements of the Iberian lynx: implications for the design of reserves and corridors

F. Palomares
Summary 1,Habitat alteration and fragmentation are two of the greatest threats to biodiversity. The conservation of most species in highly encroached areas requires reserves that are connected by suitable habitat corridors to increase the effectiveness of the area under protection. However, the quality required for such corridors is still debated. This study investigated the habitat characteristics (vegetation structure and prey abundance) of sites used by resident and dispersing Iberian lynx in south-western Spain. 2,Vegetation structure and an index of rabbit abundance (the staple prey of lynx) were measured at sites used by radio-collared lynx in 1996 and 1997. Data from 128 plots used by resident lynx and 310 plots used by dispersing individuals were compared with data from 162 randomly located plots in sites considered to be unused by lynx. 3.,Resident sites had a lower percentage of tree cover, shorter tree height, higher percentage of tall shrub cover, higher percentage of overall understorey and higher number of rabbit pellets than both dispersal and unused sites. The height of the short shrub layer was taller and the rabbit abundance index was higher in dispersing sites than in unused sites. 4,Gender did not affect habitat selection by lynx. During dispersal, lynx frequently (50% of cases) used vegetation patches narrower than 300 m. In these cases, sites used by lynx had higher understorey cover and taller shrub height than adjacent unused sites. The percentage of short shrub cover used by lynx increased with the length of time taken to disperse; this was the only variable that changed over time. 5,Range size of resident individuals declined significantly with the index of rabbit abundance but increased with the percentage of short shrub cover. Both variables were good predictors of range size. 6,The study shows that corridors connecting reserves do not have to be prime habitats; they can even support moderate habitat degradation due to human activity. This result has implications both for the conservation of existing corridors, and for the restoration of the many corridors between reserves that have been lost. [source]

Leichhardt's maps: 100 years of change in vegetation structure in inland Queensland

R. J. Fensham
Abstract Aim, To address the hypothesis that there has been a substantial increase in woody vegetation cover (,vegetation thickening') during the 100 years after the burning practices of aboriginal hunter-gatherers were abruptly replaced by the management activities associated with pastoralism in north-east Australia. Location, Three hundred and eighty-three sites on 3000 km transect, inland Queensland, Australia. Methods, Vegetation structure descriptions from the route notes of the first European exploration of the location by Ludwig Leichhardt in 1844,45 were georeferenced and compiled. Leichhardt's application of structural descriptors (e.g. ,scrub', ,open forest', ,plain') was interpreted as domains within a matrix of tall stratum and low stratum woody cover. Woody cover was also interpreted for the same locations using aerial photography that largely pre-dates extensive land clearing (1940s,1970s) and compared with their structural domain in 1844,45. The fire-sensitive tree, cypress-pine (Callitris glaucophylla) was singled out for case study because it has been widely proposed that the density of this tree has substantially increased under European pastoral management. Results, The coarse resolution of this analysis indicates that the structure of the vegetation has been stable over the first 100 years of pastoralism. For example treeless or sparsely treed plains described by Leichhardt (1844,45) had the same character on the aerial photography (1945,78). Leichhardt typically described vegetation that includes cypress-pine as having a ,thicket' structure suggesting dense regenerating stands of small trees, consistent with the signature typical on the aerial photography. Main conclusions, A large data set of geographically located descriptions of vegetation structure from the first European traverse of inland Australia compared with vegetation structure determined from aerial photography does not support the hypothesis that vegetation thickening has been extensive and substantial. On the contrary the study suggests that the structure of the vegetation has been relatively stable for the first 100 years of European settlement and pastoralism except for those areas that have been affected by broad-scale clearing. [source]

Rain forest invasion of eucalypt-dominated woodland savanna, Iron Range, north-eastern Australia: II.

Rates of landscape change
Abstract Aim, To explore rates of rain forest expansion and associated ecological correlates in Eucalyptus -dominated woodland savanna vegetation in north-eastern Australia, over the period 1943,91. Location, Iron Range National Park and environs, north-east Queensland, Australia. This remote region supports probably the largest extent of lowland (< 300 m) rain forest extant in Australia. Rainfall (c. 1700 mm p.a.) occurs mostly between November and June, with some rain typically occurring even in the driest months July,October. Methods, Interpretation of change in lowland rain forest vegetation cover was undertaken for a 140 km2 area comprising complex vegetation, geology and physiography using available air photos (1943, 1970 and 1991). A GIS database was assembled comprising rain forest extent for the three time periods, geology, elevation, slope, aspect, proximity to streams and roads. Using standard GIS procedures, a sample of 6996 10 × 10 m cells (0.5% of study area) was selected randomly and attributed for vegetation structure (rain forest and non-rain forest), and landscape features. Associations of rain forest expansion with landscape features were examined with logistic regression using the subset of cells that had changed from other vegetation types to rain forest, and remained rain forest over the assessment period, and comparing them with cells that showed no change from their original, non-rain forest condition. Results, Rain forest in the air photo study area increased from 45 km2 in 1943 to 78.1 km2 by 1970, and to 82.6 km2 by 1991. Rainfall (and atmospheric CO2 concentration) was markedly lower in the first assessment period (1943,70). Modelled rates of rain forest invasion differed predominantly with respect to substrate type, occurring faster on substrates possessing better moisture retention properties, and across all elevation classes. Greatest expansion, at least in the first assessment period, occurred on the most inherently infertile substrates. Expansion was little constrained by slope, aspect and proximity to streams and roads. On schist substrates, probability of invasion remained high (> 60%) over distances up to 1500 m from mature rain forest margins; on less favourable substrates (diorite, granites), probability of expansion was negligible at sites more than 400 m from mature margins. Main conclusions, (i) Rain forest expansion was associated primarily with release from burning pressure from c. the 1920s, following major disruption of customary Aboriginal lifestyles including hunting and burning practices. (ii) Decadal-scale expansion of rain forest at Iron Range supports extensive observations from the palaeoecological literature concerning rapid rain forest invasion under conducive environmental conditions. (iii) The generality of these substrate-mediated observations requires further testing, especially given that landscape-scale rain forest invasion of sclerophyll-dominated communities is reported from other regions of north-eastern Australia. [source]

The forests of presettlement New England, USA: spatial and compositional patterns based on town proprietor surveys

Charles V. Cogbill
Abstract Aim, This study uses the combination of presettlement tree surveys and spatial analysis to produce an empirical reconstruction of tree species abundance and vegetation units at different scales in the original landscape. Location, The New England study area extends across eight physiographic sections, from the Appalachian Mountains to the Atlantic Coastal Plain. The data are drawn from 389 original towns in what are now seven states in the north-eastern United States. These towns have early land division records which document the witness trees growing in the town before European settlement (c. seventeenth to eighteenth century ad). Methods, Records of witness trees from presettlement surveys were collated from towns throughout the study area (1.3 × 105 km2). Tree abundance was averaged over town-wide samples of multiple forest types, integrating proportions of taxa at a local scale (102 km2). These data were summarized into genus groups over the sample towns, which were then mapped [geographical information system (GIS)], classified (Cluster Analysis) and ordinated [detrended correspondence analysis (DCA)]. Modern climatic and topographic variables were also derived from GIS analyses for each town and all town attributes were quantitatively compared. Distributions of both individual species and vegetation units were analysed and displayed for spatial analysis of vegetation structure. Results, The tally of 153,932 individual tree citations show a dominant latitudinal trend in the vegetation. Spatial patterns are concisely displayed as pie charts of genus composition arrayed on sampled towns. Detailed interpolated frequency surfaces show spatial patterns of range and abundance of the dominant taxa. Oak, spruce, hickory and chestnut reach distinctive range limits within the study area. Eight vegetation clusters are distinguished. The northern vegetation is a continuous geographical sequence typified by beech while the southern vegetation is an amorphous group typified by oak. Main conclusions, The wealth of information recorded in the New England town presettlement surveys is an ideal data base to elucidate the natural patterns of vegetation over an extensive spatial area. The timing, town-wide scale, expansive coverage, quantitative enumeration and unbiased estimates are critical advantages of proprietor lotting surveys in determining original tree distributions. This historical,geographical approach produces a vivid reconstruction of the natural vegetation and species distributions as portrayed on maps. The spatial, vegetational and environmental patterns all demonstrate a distinct ,tension zone' separating ,northern hardwood' and ,central hardwood' towns. The presettlement northern hardwood forests, absolutely dominated by beech, forms a continuum responding to a complex climatic gradient of altitude and latitude. The oak forests to the south are distinguished by non-zonal units, probably affected by fire. Although at the continental scale, the forests seem to be a broad transition, at a finer scale they respond to topography such as the major valleys or the northern mountains. This study resets some preconceptions about the original forest, such as the overestimation of the role of pine, hemlock and chestnut and the underestimation of the distinctiveness of the tension zone. Most importantly, the forests of the past and their empirical description provide a basis for many ecological, educational and management applications today. [source]

Spiders as potential indicators of elephant-induced habitat changes in endemic sand forest, Maputaland, South Africa

Charles R. Haddad
Abstract Elephant impacts on spider assemblages, and the potential use of spiders as indicators of habitat changes was assessed in central Maputaland, South Africa. Three habitats, namely undisturbed sand forest, elephant disturbed sand forest and mixed woodland, were sampled. To ensure a thorough representation of all spider guilds, spiders were collected by tree beating, sweep netting, active searching, leaf litter sifting and pitfall traps. In total, 2808 individual spiders, representing 36 families, 144 determined genera and 251 species were collected. Spider abundance was highest in the undisturbed sand forest (n = 1129, S = 179), followed by elephant disturbed sand forest (n = 1006, S = 165) and mixed woodland (n = 673, S = 171). Assemblages of the two sand forests were more similar than to the mixed woodland assemblage. Active hunting species were indicators of the more open vegetation of elephant disturbed sand forest (six active hunters, no web-builders) and mixed woodland (ten active hunters, one web-builder), whereas web-builders are indicators of the dense, complex vegetation structure of undisturbed sand forest (six web-builders, three active hunters). Elephant-induced changes to the vegetation structure in this high diversity, high endemism region result in changes in the composition of spider assemblages, and may need to be mitigated by management intervention. Résumé L'impact des éléphants sur les assemblages d'araignées, et l'utilisation éventuelle des araignées comme indicateurs de changements des habitats, ont étéévalués dans le centre du Maputaland, en Afrique du Sud. Trois habitats ont étééchantillonnés, à savoir la forêt sableuse intacte, la forêt sableuse perturbée par des éléphants et la forêt mixte. Pour garantir une représentation complète de toutes les guildes d'araignées, on a récolté des araignées en frappant sur les arbres, en agitant des filets, en pratiquant une recherche active, en tamisant la litière de feuilles, et avec des pièges. Au total, on a récolté 2 808 araignées; représentant 36 familles, 144 genres déterminés et 251 espèces. L'abondance d'araignées était la plus grande dans la forêt sableuse non perturbée (n = 1129, S = 179), suivie par la forêt sableuse perturbée par les éléphants (n = 1006, S = 165), puis par la forêt mixte (n = 673, S = 171). Les assemblages des deux forêts sableuses étaient plus semblables entre eux qu'avec celui de la forêt mixte. Les espèces d'araignées qui chassent activement étaient des indicateurs de la végétation plus ouverte de la forêt perturbée par les éléphants (six chasseurs actifs, aucun constructeur de toile) et de la forêt mixte (dix chasseurs actifs, un constructeur de toile), alors que les constructeurs de toile étaient des indicateurs de la structure dense et complexe de la végétation de la forêt sableuse intacte (six constructeurs de toile, trois chasseurs actifs). Les éléphants induisaient des changements dans la structure de la végétation de cette région à la diversitéélevée et d'un fort endémisme, ce qui entraînait des modifications de la composition des assemblages d'araignées. Cela pourrait devoir être atténué par une intervention de la gestion. [source]

Elephant distribution around a volcanic shield dominated by a mosaic of forest and savanna (Marsabit, Kenya)

Shadrack M. Ngene
Abstract We investigated the factors that influenced the distribution of the African elephant around a volcanic shield dominated by a mosaic of forest and savanna in northern Kenya. Data on elephant distribution were acquired from four female and five bull elephants, collared with satellite-linked geographical positioning system collars. Based on the eigenvalues (variances) of the correlation matrix, the six factors that contributed significantly to high total variances were distance from drinking water (24%), elevation (15%), shrubland (10%), forest (9%), distance from settlements (8%) and distance from minor roads (7%), contributing to 73% in the observed variation of the elephant distribution. The elephants were found at high forested elevations during the dry season but they moved to the lowlands characterized by shrubland during the wet season. Elevation acts as a proxy for the vegetation structure. The presence of elephants near permanent water points (13%) and seasonal rivers (11%) during the dry and wet seasons, respectively, demonstrates that water is the most important determinant of their distribution throughout the year. We conclude that the distribution of elephants in Marsabit Protected Area and its adjacent areas is influenced mainly by drinking water and vegetation structure. Résumé Nous avons étudié les facteurs qui influencent la distribution de l'éléphant africain autour d'un bouclier volcanique dominé par une mosaïque de forêt et de savane dans le nord du Kenya. Les données sur la distribution des éléphants furent acquises grâce à quatre femelles et cinq mâles équipés de colliers radio avec GPS par satellite. En se basant sur les valeurs propres (variances) de la matrice de corrélation, les six facteurs qui ont contribué significativement à de fortes variances totales étaient la distance par rapport à l'eau (24%), l'élévation (15%), la savane arbustive (10%), la forêt (9%), la distance par rapport à des installations (8%) et celle par rapport à des routes peu importantes (7%), qui contribuent donc ensemble à 73% de la variation observée dans la distribution de l'éléphant. Des éléphants se trouvaient sur de hautes élévations forestières pendant la saison sèche, mais ils se déplaçaient vers les terrains de basse altitude caractérisés par des broussailles pendant la saison des pluies. L'élévation sert de proxy à la structure de la végétation. La présence d'éléphants près des points d'eau permanents (13%) et des rivières saisonnières (11%) pendant la saison sèche et la saison des pluies respectivement montre que l'eau est le déterminant le plus important de leur distribution tout au long de l'année. Nous concluons que la distribution des éléphants dans la Marsabit Protected Area et dans les zones adjacentes est influencée principalement par la disponibilité de l'eau et la structure de la végétation. [source]

Pastoralist's livestock and settlements influence game bird diversity and abundance in a savanna ecosystem of southern Kenya

Dana L. Morris
Abstract We investigated the vegetation structure and density of game birds along a successional gradient created by varying intensity of human settlement in a pastoral community in Shompole group ranch in southern Kenya. We examined four habitat types including heavily-grazed grass in currently occupied settlements, short grass in seasonal settlements, patches of bushed woodland in settlement sites that had been abandoned up to 30 years ago, and tall grass in a wildlife sanctuary. Vegetation biomass was the highest in the sanctuary where livestock are excluded and the lowest in the vicinity of currently occupied settlements. Abundance of doves (Oena spp. and Streptopelia spp.) was best associated with moderate grazing and per cent green grass, which provide good foraging opportunities. Francolin and spurfowl (Francolinus spp.) were positively associated with vegetation biomass. Quail (Coturnix spp.) were positively associated with tree cover. These data reflect the importance of maintaining a balance of wildlife and livestock grazing with patches of ungrazed grasslands and bushed woodlands in providing a mosaic of habitats that support a diverse population of game birds. The results have wide application for an integrated management approach to livestock, wildlife and game bird management in the savannas. Résumé Nous avons étudié la structure de la végétation et la densité du gibier à plume le long d'un gradient créé par la variation de l'intensité des installations humaines, dans une communauté pastorale dans un ranch de Shompole, dans le sud du Kenya. Nous avons examiné quatre types d'habitats: l'herbe fortement broutée dans les installations qui sont actuellement occupées, l'herbe courte des installations saisonnières, les îlots de broussailles dans les anciennes installations abandonnées parfois depuis 30 ans et les hautes herbes d'un sanctuaire de la faune. La biomasse de la végétation était la plus grande dans le sanctuaire d'où le bétail était exclu et la plus basse dans le voisinage des installations encore occupées. L'abondance des tourterelles (Oena spp. et Streptopelia spp.) était plutôt liée à un broutage modéré et à un pourcentage d'herbe verte qui donnent de bonnes possibilités de se nourrir. Les francolins (Francolinus spp.) étaient positivement liés à la biomasse de la végétation. Les cailles (Coturnix spp.) étaient positivement liées à la couverture arborée. Ces données reflètent l'importance de conserver un équilibre entre les pâturages de la faune sauvage et du bétail et des îlots non pâturés et des broussailles, pour créer une mosaïque d'habitats qui accueillent une population variée de gibier à plume. Les résultats peuvent largement trouver une application dans les approches intégrées de gestion du bétail, de la faune sauvage et du gibier à plume en savane. [source]

Assessing the impacts of fire on the vegetation resources that are available to the local communities of the seasonal wetlands of the Okavango, Botswana, in the context of different land uses and key government policies

Budzanani Tacheba
Abstract The Okavango wetlands in north western Botswana are the most fire-prone environment in Botswana. Most of these fires are anthropogenic. The fires in this environment are thought to impact the environment negatively and therefore practices that are associated with extensive use of fire have been strongly criticized. Despite this, there has been little work done to understand how these fires impact the wetlands environment and its dynamics, especially the vegetation resources that are used by the local communities in the wetlands. The objective of the study was to identify fire spatial and temporal trends in relation to settlement distribution, through the use of remote sensing, socio-economic and phytosociological surveys. The fire history results show that geographically there has not been any significant change in vegetation structure and that in fact fires may have promoted biodiversity. The results of analysis show an overall variance on vegetation structure of 23% whereas the rest are unaccounted for. There is a strong association between settlements, ethnicities, literacy and fire occurrences. The most fire-prone areas are inhabited by communities that have used fire in the past for various resource use practices. [source]

Small-scale vegetation structure and composition of Chirinda Forest, southeast Zimbabwe

Lizzie Mujuru
First page of article [source]