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Herbivores shape woody plant communities in the Kruger National Park: Lessons from three long-term exclosures

B. Wigley Hervé Fritz 1 C. Coetsee Wj. Bond 
1 Ecologie quantitative et évolutive des communautés
Département écologie évolutive [LBBE]
Abstract : The role of grazers in determining vegetation community compositions and structuring plant communities is well recognised in grassy systems. The role of browsers in affecting savanna woody plant communities is less clear. We used three long-term exclosures in the Kruger National Park to determine the effect of browsers on species compositions and population structures of woody communities. Species assemblages, plant traits relating to browsing and soil nutrients were compared inside and outside of the exclosures. Our results showed that browsers directly impact plant species distributions, densities and population structures by actively selecting for species with traits which make them desirable to browsers. Species with high leaf nitrogen, low total phenolic content and low acid detergent lignin appeared to be favoured by herbivores and therefore tend to be rare outside of the exclosures. This study also suggested that browsers have important indirect effects on savanna functioning, as the reduction of woody cover can result in less litter of lower quality, which in turn can result in lower soil fertility. However, the magnitude of browser effects appeared to depend on inherent soil fertility and climate.
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Submitted on : Friday, February 22, 2019 - 10:41:17 AM
Last modification on : Friday, March 4, 2022 - 3:57:27 PM

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B. Wigley, Hervé Fritz, C. Coetsee, Wj. Bond. Herbivores shape woody plant communities in the Kruger National Park: Lessons from three long-term exclosures. Koedoe, 2014, 56, pp.1165. ⟨10.4102/koedoe.v56i1.1165⟩. ⟨hal-02045536⟩

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