Woody Vegetation Utilisation in Tembe Elephant Park, Kwazulu-Natal, South Africa

  •  Jerome Gaugris    
  •  Caroline Vasicek    
  •  Margaretha van Rooyen    


A survey of woody plant species utilisation by large (excluding elephants), medium and small browsers,man and “natural damage”, was conducted in nine vegetation units of Tembe Elephant Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Woody species use and canopy removal were evaluated within two age ranges, (a) recent, ? 12 months prior to study and (b) old, > 12 months prior to the study. The results show that recent canopy removal by medium and small browsers was intensive and generally represented one third of height classes available to the agents which were consistently used withinall vegetation types. The overall utilisation pattern indicated that medium and small browsers may be removing the regeneration classof the woody plants layer. Natural damage was found to be considerable and it was hypothesized that it may be linked and possibly amplified by prior elephant utilisation. In conclusion, it is possible to suggest that the regular use of the sapling level by small and medium browsers could promote woodland to grassland retrogression, as was found in east Africa under high densities of animals.

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