Patch creation by fossorial rodents : a key process in the revegetation of phytotoxic arid soils

Desmet, P G
Cowling, R M
Journal of Arid Environments
Publication Year: 
The recolonization by plants of overburden dumps created more than 20 years ago by opencast diamond-mining activities on the west coast of South Africa is very slow to non-existent. Only on dumps where the fossorial rodentParotomys brantsii has created burrow networks has some natural revegetation occurred. We tested the hypothesis that this plant colonization is facilitated by rodent burrowing activities which create soil patches containing organic matter and soil microbial propagules. Nearest-neighbour analysis of burrow-plant and random point-plant pairs showed that rodent burrows are associated with the occurrence of plants. There was a significantly higher pH, significantly lower electrical conductivity, and a five-fold increase in microbial activity between control and burrow mound soils on dumps. These fossorial rodents create small patches (c. 0·5x0·5 m) of increased [`]fertility' that encourage plant colonization in an otherwise edaphically hostile environment.
Name of Journal: 
Journal of Arid Environments
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.