The impact of African elephants on Acacia tortilis woodland in northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe

E. Gandiwa, T. Magwati, P. Zisadza, T. Chinuwo, C. Tafangenyasha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

25 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

We investigated the impact of African elephants (Loxodonta africana) on the structure and composition of Acacia tortilis woodland in northern Gonarezhou National Park, southeast Zimbabwe. A. tortilis woodland was stratified into high, medium and low elephant utilisation categories based on evidence of elephant habitat use as determined through dung-count surveys in relation to distance of woodland patches from perennial and natural surface water sources. The following variables were recorded in each study plot: tree height, species name, number of species, plant damage, basal circumference and number of stems per plant. A total of 824 woody plants and 26 woody species were recorded from the sampled A. tortilis woodland patches. Mean tree densities, basal areas, tree heights and species diversity were lower in areas with medium and high elephant utilisation as compared to low elephant utilisation areas. Plants damaged by elephants increased with increasing elephant utilisation. The study findings suggest that A. tortilis woodland is gradually being transformed into an open woodland. We recommended that protected area management in arid and semi-arid areas should consider (i) formulating clear thresholds of potential concern to allow for the conservation of sensitive woodlands such as A. tortilis woodlands and (ii) establishing long-term vegetation monitoring programmes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)809-814
JournalJournal of Arid Environments
Volume75
Issue number9
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Keywords

  • savanna
  • fire
  • damage
  • trees
  • vegetation
  • giraffe

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