Management of Acacia species seed banks in the Table Mountain National Park, Cape Peninsula, South Africa

Jasson, Rene (2005-12)

Thesis (MScAgric (Conservation Ecology and Entomology)--University of Stellenbosch, 2005.


Within the Table Mountain National Park (TMNP), Western Cape, South Africa, various management practices have been undertaken in the removal of alien vegetation. While considerable success in the control of alien plants is evident from the removal of standing plants, it is not known if this effort has actually made any long-term difference in the effort to eliminate alien vegetation from the TMNP. This is because no coordinated effort has been made to assess the extent of the alien seed bank, nor the effect that clearing (including the use of fire) has on this seed store. This study investigates the extent of pre- and post-fire Acacia saligna seed banks under differing stand ages, differing clearing techniques and different habitats in the Cape Peninsula National Park. Firstly, the focus is on two alien plant management techniques: The first technique involves clearing and stacking of biomass for burning during winter (stack burn technique), the second technique involves burning of standing alien plants (standing/block burn technique) to decrease heat release at the surface. Secondly, the extent of Acacia species seed banks along the Silvermine River is also investigated with the aim of determining the extent of alien seed stores in this habitat and therefore the long-term restoration potential of the riparian corridor. The primary question addressed in the first study is: “Under what clearing technique will most of the alien seed bank be reduced?” The secondary question reads: “Is seed bank density and distribution directly related to age of dense infestation of the alien vegetation stand and habitat?” The primary question addressed in the second study is: “What is the vertical, lateral and longitudinal distribution and density of Acacia species seed banks along the Silvermine River?” The secondary question reads: “Is seed density and distribution influenced by above ground density of alien vegetation?” In both riparian and terrestrial systems, alien soil seed banks accumulate in high densities where aboveground alien Acacia vegetation is dense. Most of the seed occurs in the upper soil layer, but seed density decreases with depth with an exception of a high seed density at a low depth in one of the samples in the riparian system. Intense fires are most effective in reducing seed stores and removing aboveground alien vegetation in both riparian and terrestrial fynbos systems. After burns, both stack and stand burns have shown a significant decrease in seed density especially in the upper layers but there is still much seed that remained in the matrix area between stacks. The cooler winter burns resulted in less destructive, lower temperatures that aided higher seedling recruitment. Mature stands of Acacia saligna tend to have greater seed stores than immature stands and habitats with deep colluvial soils have a greater density and also greater vertical distribution of seeds. The vertical distribution of the riparian system differed from the fynbos terrestrial system in that seeds were found down to lower depths. Along the river, seed density also increased laterally with more seeds occurring in the terrrestrial sections than in the channel. Seed density increased with longitudinal distribution with more seeds occurring at the sites in the lower catchment than upper catchment. Managers should be aware that fire is needed to reduce the seed bank in both riparian and terrestrial fynbos systems. The cooler winter stack burns is the best option as it results in less destructive, lower temperatures that aids higher seedling recruitment. It is important to know the site history as age of dense infestation, number of fires and geology of site could influence seed bank density. In riparian systems the vertical distribution of seed is deeper than in the fynbos area. In order for clearing to be effective it is imperative that follow-up takes place and should be done prior to flowering to stop reseeding.

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