Linking a population model with an ecosystem model : Assessing the impact of land use and climate change on savanna shrub cover dynamics

Tews, Jorg
Esther, Alexandra
Milton, Sue J
Jeltsch, Florian
Ecological Modelling
Publication Year: 
In semiarid savannas of Southern Africa current land use practices and climate change may lead to substantial changes of vegetation structure in the near future, however uncertainty remains about the potential consequences and the magnitude of change. In this paper we study the impact of climate change, cattle grazing, and wood cutting on shrub cover dynamics in savannas of the southern Kalahari. We use an established savanna ecosystem model to simulate landscape dynamics in terms of rainfall, fire and distribution of the dominant tree Acacia erioloba. We then incorporate these data into a spatial population model of the common, fleshy-fruited shrub Grewia flava and investigate shrub cover dynamics for a period of 100 years. Depending on the intensity of commercial wood cutting practices tree removal of A. erioloba led to a strong decline of the G. flava population, as shrub recruitment is concentrated in tree sub-canopies due to bird-mediated seed dispersal. Under climate change shrub cover slightly decreased with decreasing precipitation and was unchanged with increase in precipitation variability. Contrarily, grazing by cattle strongly increased shrub cover and facilitated shrub encroachment because of cattle-induced distribution of G. flava seeds into the matrix vegetation. Knowledge of the latter process is particularly important because shrub invasion is a major concern for conservation and savanna rangeland management as a result of its adverse effects on livestock carrying capacity and biodiversity.
Name of Journal: 
Ecological Modelling
Resource Type: 
Document Type: 
Journal Issue/Article
Grassland Society of Southern Africa

The Grassland Society of Southern Africa (GSSA) is involved and concerned with the science and practice of range and pasture management. This broad field involves primarily the use and conservation of natural resources. It encompasses applied fields such as livestock production, wildlife management, nature conservation, water catchment management and range and mine-dump rehabilitation. The disciplines include, amongst others, ecology, botany zoology, range and pasture science, animal science, soil science and genetics. This collection includes journal articles from the African Journal of Range and Forage Science as well as related articles and reports from throughout the Southern African region.