Habitat selection by large herbivores in relation to fire at the Bontebok National Park (1974-2009) : the effects of management changes

Kraaij, T
Novellie, P A
African Journal of Range & Forage Science
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The Bontebok National Park has long been faced with the dilemma of reconciling the need for short-interval fires, which promote grazing for bontebok, with that for longer-interval fires to maintain plant diversity. We explored habitat selection by various large herbivores in relation to veld age (time since fire), different management regimes, and vegetation type. Taller grass grazers (Cape mountain zebra and red hartebeest) were introduced in the 1980s to prolong the usefulness of older veld to bontebok through a grazing succession. We found that all herbivores favoured young veld and largely avoided veld > 5 years old. Zebra and hartebeest competed with bontebok in utilising young veld rather than grazing facilitation occurring. In 2004, the fire rotation was prolonged to favour plant diversity, resulting in reduced availability of young veld. In compensation, the bontebok stocking rate was reduced. Bontebok densities subsequently declined proportionally across veld ages, thereby averting high animal densities on the smaller area of young veld. Fire significantly influenced bontebok habitat use equally during the old and new burning regimes. Herbivores did not distinguish between the two predominant vegetation types at Bontebok National Park. However, previously disturbed areas with Cynodon dactylon lawns were favoured by most herbivores despite not being burnt.
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African Journal of Range & Forage Science
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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.