Ecological and socio-economic assessment of Mopane woodland in the Mahel area in Maputo Province, Mozambique

Foloma, Marcelino Caetano Semo (2004-03)

Thesis (MScConsEcol)--University of Stellenbosch, 2004.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The Mopane woodlands are some of the most economically and ecologically important vegetation types of southern Africa, providing an array of services and products for sustaining livelihood of local communities in dry and low lying areas. Although Mopane woodlands, like other African savannas, have received attention in the last decades, few studies were carried out using an integrated approach that combines socio-economic and environmental considerations. The aim of this study was to document the impact of harvesting woody resources in order to recommend ways of meeting ecological and economic objectives for sustainable use of communal resources in a rural community in the Mahel area, Mozambique. This was achieved by looking at the pattern of species composition, resource availability and dynamics of the woody vegetation and how the woodland is used. The study found that woodland resources in the area have a promising potential. Local communities who also recognised the crucial importance of these resources for their livelihood corroborated this. Thus, conservation measures are needed because the current unsustainable utilisation of the resources may lead to degradation of the woodland resource base. The species richness and diversity of the vegetation appeared to be influenced by a number of ecological and anthropogenic factors, but soil characteristics are the most important determinant of distribution and composition of the Mopane and Acacia woodlands in Mahel. The harsh environmental conditions on hard clay soils lead to dominance of over 80% of the Mahel area by Colophospermum mopane. There was evidence of high variation of species richness per plot at a distance from the villages. On the other hand species diversity near the villages was higher because of human activities. Colophospermum mopane formed mono-specific stands far from the villages. One of the most important aspects of the study is the invaluable contribution of baseline information for long-term studies for biodiversity assessment and monitoring of vegetation changes caused by impact of harvesting in the Mopane woodland. The availability of woody resources in the Mahel area was higher in Mopane woodland (937 stems ha-I) than in Acacia woodland (271 stems ha -1). The population structure of most tree species was shown to be stable in Mopane woodland. Therefore, sustainable harvesting in the woodland for firewood, construction material and poles, other than charcoal production could be encouraged. The preference across use types and species depended mostly on availability of resources in the woodland. Colophospermum mopane was the species with highest multiple use, including for firewood, charcoal, construction material, fencing poles and edible caterpillars. Local people perceived that crop production was a more important source of benefits for their livelihoods than cattle farming, woodland use and cash income. Application of strategic management planning is crucial in the Mahel area. This will require a suitable zoning scheme for appropriate use of the woodland resources and conservation of the vegetation as a guarantee for sustainable development of the local communities.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Mopanie bosveld is een van die mees ekonomies en ekologies belangrike plantegroei tipes en voorsien 'n reeks dienste en produkte wat bydrae tot die lewensonderhoud van plaaslike gemeenskappe in die droeë en laagliggende dele van Suider Afrika. Alhoewel Mopanie bosveld, soos ook ander savanna tipes in Afrika, in die afgelope dekades aandag geniet het, is daar 'n tekort aan studies wat sosio-ekonomiese, sowel as omgewingsaspekte, integreer en aanspreek. Die doel van die studie was om die impak van oes en benutting van houtagtige hulpbronne te dokumenteer en sodoende aanbevelings te maak aangaande die ekologiese en ekonomiese aspekte van die volhoudbare benutting van gemeenskaplike hulpbronne in die Mahel gebied, Mosambiek. Dit is gedoen deur ondersoek in te stel na die patroon van spesie samestelling, die beskikbaarheid en gebruik van bosveld hulpbronne en die dinamiese prosesse van die houtagtige plantegroei. In die studie is gevind dat daar belowende potensiaal in die gebruik van die houtagtige hulpbronne in die studiegebied, opgesluit is. Die bevinding is bevestig deur die plaaslike gemeenskappe wat die belangrikheid van die hulpbronne in hul lewensonderhoud herken. In die lig van die huidige onvolhoudbare verbruik van die hulpbron, is maatreëls vir die bewaring hiervan nodig om moontlike oorbenutting van houtagtige hulpbronne te voorkom. Dit wil voorkom asof die spesierykheid en diversiteit deur 'n aantal antropogeniese faktore beinvloed word, maar grondeienskappe is die belangrikste faktor wat die verspreiding en samestelling van Mopanie en Akasia bosveld in die Mahel, bepaal. Die ongunstige omgewingstoestande op harde, klei grond, lei daartoe dat tot 80 % van die Mahel gedomineer word deur Colosphospermum mopane. Daar was verder aanduidings van hoër spesierykheid per plot soos daar van plaaslike nedersettings wegbeweeg word. Daar was egter 'n hoër spesiediversiteit nader aan nedersettings, as gevolg van menslike aktiwiteite. Daar was 'n tendens vir Colosphospermum mopane om mono-spesifieke opstande met groter afstand van nedersettings te vorm. Een van die mees belangrike aspekte van die studie is die bydrae wat dit lewer tot grondbeginsels vir langtermyn studies, wat fokus op die impak van menslike gebruik van Mopanie bosveld op die biodiversiteit en plantegroeisamestelling van die hulpbron. Die beskikbaarheid van houtagtige hulpbronne was hoër in die Mahel Mopanie bosveld (937 stamme ha-I) as in Akasia bosveld (271 stamme ha-I). Daar is gevind dat die populasiestruktuur, sowel as regenerasie van die populasie, stabiel is in Mopanie bosveld. Derhalwe kan benutting van die bosveld vir vuurmaakhout (uitsluitende charcoal) en boumateriaal aangemoedig word. Die voorkeur van sekere spesies en aanwending vir sekere gebruike het meestal afgehang van die beskikbaarheid van die verkillende hulpbronne in die bosveld. Colosphospermum mopane is die spesie wat die meeste aangewend is vir gebruik vir onder andere, vuurmaakhout, charcoal, boumateriaal, heining pale en die voorsiening van eetbare ruspus. Daar is verder bevind dat die plaaslike inwoners gewasproduksie as 'n belangriker ondersteuningsfaktor vir lewensonderhoud sien as lewendehawe produksie, bosveld benutting en kontant inkomste. Die toepassing van strategiese bestuursbeplanning is van kardinale belang in die Mahel. Dit sluit die ontwikkeling van 'n sonerings skema in, om die toepaslike gebruik van bosveld hulpbronne en die bewaring van die plantegroei te verseker vir die toekomstige volhoudbare gebruik van die hulpbron deur plaaslike gemeenskappe.

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