Fever tree woodlands at risk from intensification of land management activities associated with human and wildlife utilization
Publication date: 1 March 2019
Source: Forest Ecology and Management, Volume 435
Author(s): Rachel C. White, Jane M. Bowles, Eric M. Enanga, Irena F. Creed, Charles G. Trick
Losses of acacia woodlands have been reported throughout eastern and southern Africa. Of particular concern is the loss of fever tree (Vachellia xanthophloea) woodlands along the riparian areas of lakes which may result in the loss of important terrestrial and aquatic ecosystem services. For example, the Lake Naivasha basin in Kenya has endured considerable population growth and associated changes in land management with potential consequences for fever tree woodlands. This study assessed how fever tree woodland integrity differed with varying degrees of human and wildlife disturbances among surrounding land use management types. A field survey of fever tree woodlands suggest that land management types influenced degrees of human and wildlife disturbances, with settlement areas having significantly more human disturbance and conservation areas having significantly more wildlife disturbance. Furthermore, while land management type did not significantly influence the stem sizes of fever trees, it did influence the condition of woodland crown and ground covers. Settlement areas with high human disturbance were correlated with healthier crown covers (a possible artifact of the removal of dead or dying crown for fuelwood) while conservation areas with high wildlife disturbance were correlated with less healthy crown covers in smaller trees (<45 cm diameter at breast height) that were not killed but stunted by wildlife browsing. Settlement areas were dominated by more but less diverse ground cover while conservation areas were correlated with less but more diverse ground cover. While fever trees show resilience to multiple disturbances, the early warning of changes to the woodlands imply that the future of the fever tree woodlands is at risk and that limits to the encroachment of land management activities into the fever tree woodlands should be established.
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