Structure and composition of Spirostachys africana woodland stands in Gonarezhou National Park, southeast Zimbabwe

E. Gandiwa, P. Gandiwa, T. Mxoza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

We investigated the structure and composition of Spirostachys africana woodlands in Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), southeast Zimbabwe. We divided the GNP into three strata, namely northern, central and southern GNP, based on physical feature such as major perennial rivers. The main objective was to determine whether the structure and composition of S. africana woodlands varied across the GNP. In addition, we evaluated whether herbivory and fires played important roles in influencing the structure and composition of S. africana woodland stands. A stratified random sampling design was used and data were collected from a total of 60 sample plots. The following variables were recorded in each study plot: woody plant height, species name, plant status (alive or dead), fire or browse evidence and number of stems per plant. A total of 2,588 woody plants comprising of 73 woody species were recorded from the sampled S. africana woodlands in the GNP. Our results showed that woody species diversity, woody plant heights, shrub density, density of dead plants, sapling density, density of fire damaged plants, and number of stems per plant were significantly different across the S. africana woodlands in GNP. In contrast, only densities of trees and browsed plants did not differ significantly across the GNP. Most plots in the southern GNP had higher tree and sapling densities and taller trees whereas those in the northern GNP had higher densities of fire damaged plants. In addition, plots from central GNP were characterised with higher shrub densities of S. africana woodlands. Overall, our results suggest that there are both structural and compositional differences of S. africana woodland stands across the GNP. Evidence of herbivory did not differ significantly across the GNP suggesting that plants were uniformly affected by herbivores. However, fire evidence seemed to vary across the GNP, with areas having frequent fires being more degraded and having to some extent more woody vegetation species diversity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2083-2096
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Sciences
Volume2
Issue number4
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2012

Keywords

  • Africa
  • Fire
  • Herbivory
  • Monitoring
  • Savanna
  • Species diversity
  • Tamboti

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