An assessment of the impacts of invasive Australian wattle species on grazing provision and livestock production in South Africa

Yapi, Thozamile Steve (2013-12)

Thesis (MSc)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: I investigated the impacts of the invasive wattle species (Acacia mearnsii, A. dealbata, A. decurrens), on the ecological function and productivity of rangelands in South Africa and their ability to sustain livestock production. More specifically, this study set out to: (1) assess grazing areas at a national scale; (2) identify evidence of progressive impacts of these species on livestock production across a selection of magisterial districts; (3) determine the effects of A. mearnsii density on growth form dominance of indigenous plant species, and highlight how this translates into impacts in forage quality and quantity; (4) determine the effects of A. mearnsii invasion on soil resources and conditions (key determinates of ecological function) required to support grazing production; and finally (5) determine to effects that clearing operations have had on the provision of grazing resources. My results indicate that the level of overlap between wattle invasion and areas with a high grazing potential, at the national scale, is relatively low (2.9%). However, at a magisterial district scale, areas with a high grazing potential have a moderate (approximately 35.1% high grazing potential area under wattle invasion for highest invaded district) level of invasion. Scattered and moderate levels of invasion currently dominate or characterise these species invasion patterns. Both light and dense A. mearnsii invasions reduce grazing capacity. Dense invasion had the most severe effect reducing grazing capacity from 2 ha, required to support one large stock unit, to 8 ha. The clearing of this species was found to improve grazing capacity within 5 years. The reduction in grazing capacity following invasion was largely due to reduced basal cover and herbaceous biomass. The clearing of invaded sites was found to increase both basal cover and herbaceous biomass to pre-invasion levels. Acacia mearnsii invasion was found to affect certain soil properties. Under an A. mearnsii canopy, plant litter, carbon content of the soil and nitrogen concentrations were all found to be elevated. Overall, this study demonstrates that Acacia invasions have a significant effect on grazing resources at a local or site scale, and that for the eastern region of South Africa, these effects are ultimately scaled up to a district level. This is likely to have important financial and human well-being repercussions. However clearing and restoration programs are clearly able to reverse or mitigate these effects. This study therefore lends support to or complements other ecosystem service provision arguments for clearing alien invasive species.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die impak van die indringer- wattelbome spesies ( A. mearnsii , A. dealbata , A. decurrens) , op die ekologiese funksie en produktiwiteit van weivelde in Suid-Afrika en hul vermoë om vee produksie te onderhou was ondersoek. Meer spesifiek, is hierdie studie uiteengesit om: (1) ondersoek in te stel na die mate van oorvleueling tussen indringing deur wattelbome spesies en belangrike weidingsgebiede op 'n nasionale skaal; (2) bewyse te verskaf van die progressiewe impak van hierdie spesies op vee-produksie oor 'n seleksie van politieke distrikte, (3) die gevolge van A. mearnsii digtheid op groei vorm en oorheersing van inheemse plante te wys, en hoe dit voer kwaliteit en kwantiteit affekteer; (4) die gevolge van A. mearnsii indringing op grond hulpbronne sowel as die kondisie (sleutel bepalende faktore van ekologiese funksie) wat benodig word om weiding produksie te ondersteun vas te stel, en uiteindelik (5) om die gevolge van skoonmaak bedrywighede op die voorsiening van weiding hulpbronne te bepaaal. My resultate dui daarop dat die vlak van oorvleueling tussen die wattelbome indringing en gebiede met 'n hoë weiding potensiaal, by die nasionale skaal, relatief laag is (2’9 %). Maar op 'n landdrosdistrik skaal, het gebiede met 'n hoë weiding potensiaal 'n matige (ongeveer 35.1 % weiding potensiaal area onder wattelbome indringing vir die hoogste binnegevalde distrik ) vlak van indringing. Verspreide en matige vlakke van indringing oorheers tans of kenmerk hierdie spesies se indringings patrone. Beide lig en digte A. mearnsii besettings verminder dravermoë. Digte inval het die mees ernstige uitwerking en verminder dravermoë van 2 ha, wat nodig is om een grootvee-eenheid te ondersteun na 8 ha. Bevindinge wys dat die verwydering van hierdie spesies weiding kapasiteit kan verbeter binne 'n tydperk van 5 jaar. Die afname in dravermoë na indringing is grootliks te wyte aan die afname in basale bedekking en kruidagtige biomassa. Na die skoonmaak van indringer persele is bevind dat beide basale bedekking en biomassa weer verhoog tot voor- indringings vlakke. Acacia mearnsii indringing beïnvloed sekere grondeienskappe. Onder A. mearnsii blaredak, is alle blaarafval, koolstof-inhoud van die grond en stikstof konsentrasies verhef. In die algeheel, toon hierdie studie dat die Acacia indringings 'n beduidende uitwerking op weidings hulpbronne by 'n plaaslike of perseel skaal het, en vir die oostelike streek van Suid-Afrika, is hierdie effekte ook uiteindelik vertaalbaar tot 'n distrik vlak. Dit sal waarskynlik belangrike finansiële en menslike welsyn gevolge hê, maar die skoonmaak en herstel programme is duidelik daartoe instaat om die gevolge te keer of te verminder. Hierdie studie leen dus ondersteuning aan of komplimenteer ander ekostelsel dienslewering argumente (soos dié van die Werk vir Water program) vir die verwydering van indringerspesies.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/95455
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