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Uunona, N. 2015. Impacts of fire on grazers and browsers movements at Waterberg plateau park, central Namibia. BSc Thesis, Polytech Nambia


Description:

Impacts of fire on grazers and browsers movements at Waterberg plateau park, central Namibia.

Summary / Notes:

Fire is one of the major ecological factors that determines structure and function of grassland and savanna ecosystems through its effects on vegetation composition and primary production, and foraging behaviour and distribution of populations of wildlife species, therefore, some wildlife protected areas in Namibia like Waterberg Plateau Park have a fire management scheme to cater for a variety of purposes such as, to prevent bush encroachment into grassland, to increase production of quality forage, to control wild fires from outside the protected areas and their spread, and to keep animals in tourist areas for visitors' enjoyment. The responses to fire of ecosystem processes can be quantified but the outcomes are generally complex depending on the nature of the fire regime, primarily the frequency and timing of the fire events. Burning has been a management tool in protected areas and a common practice of range management by pastoralists. Herdsmen use fire to improve the pasture quality for cattle. Removal of old or dead grass material by fire enhances sprouting of plants, which improves, at least for a short-term, the quality of the sward. In Waterberg Plateau six fire blocks have been burnt to date with the recent fire by lightning strike in October 2013. The perceived importance of fire to the management and conservation of Waterberg ecosystem has driven this research to focus on the effects of fire on herbivores movements and their forage resources in the Waterberg Plateau Park. To accomplish that, the research aimed at determining 1) the movements of different mammal species utilizing different habitats in relation to fire history at Waterberg Plateau Park using dung counts as a method 2) determining utilisation of different grasses, shrubs and weeds by different mammal species in relation to fire history at Waterberg Plateau Park and 3) determining decomposition/ decay rate of dung heaps of different mammals species at Waterberg Plateau Park. Results from the area burnt 10 months ago shows high species diversity, distribution, composition and abundance of herbivore species compared to other blocks burnt years ago. Findings show that herbivores switch between burnt and non-burnt areas maybe for shade, resting and ruminating in areas burnt long ago. More plant utilization was identified in the recent burnt area and it appears to be governed by enhanced concentrations of macronutrients, increased digestibility and reduced concentration of acid detergent fibers. Selection for non-burnt or burnt areas or against areas burnt by some species of ungulates is also indicative that quality and/or quantity of forage in the respective patch underlay patch choice. The reason there is nearly much utilization in areas burnt years back is because grasses are more palatable only at the beginning of the season; and if nit not utilized, the palatability of the new growth deteriorate through the growing season because palatability of the new growth will approach that of the new growth of grasses that were not burnt at the end of the first growing season. For decomposition, the study has found that, moisture is often singled out as the main factor that influences persistence of mammalian fecal pellets, with higher moisture levels resulting in faster decay rates and shorter persistence times. Lastly, this research shows that fire is important in influencing mammal's utilisation of available resources, and inclusion of the fire–herbivore interaction into ecological studies and conservation practices of fire systems will aid in better understanding and managing.

Year: 2015

Type: Thesis

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