Reconstructing grazer assemblages for protected area restoration

J.A. Venter, H.H.T. Prins, R. Slotow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


Protected area management agencies often struggle to reliably reconstruct grazer assemblages due to a lack of historical distribution data for their regions. Wrong predictions of grazing assemblages could potentially affect biodiversity negatively. The objective of the study was to determine how well grazing herbivores have become established since introduction to the Mkambati Nature Reserve, South Africa, how this was influenced by facilitation and competition, and how indigenous grazer assemblages can best be predicted for effective ecological restoration. Population trends of several grazing species were investigated in in order to determine how well they have become established since introduction. Five different conceivable grazing assemblages reflecting a range of approaches that are commonly encountered during conservation planning and management decision making were assessed. Species packing was used to predict whether facilitation, competition or co-existence were more likely to occur, and the species packing of the different assemblages were assessed using ANCOVA. Reconstructing a species assemblage using biogeographic and biological information provides the opportunity for a grazer assemblage that allows for facilitatory effects, which in turn leads to an ecosystem that is able to maintain its grazer assemblage structure. The strength of this approach lies in the ability to overcome the problem of depauperate grazer assemblages, resulting from a lack of historical data, by using biogeographical and biological processes, to assist in more effectively reconstructing grazer assemblages. Adaptive management of grazer assemblage restoration through reintroduction, using this approach would further mitigate management risks.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere90900
Number of pages10
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2014


  • south-african savanna
  • middle stone-age
  • conservation management
  • distribution patterns
  • foraging behavior
  • landscape-scale
  • herbivore
  • fire
  • heterogeneity
  • biodiversity


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