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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10204/5436

Title: Human-modified landscapes: patterns of fine-scale woody vegetation structure in communal savannah rangelands
Authors: Fisher, T
Witkowski, ETF
Erasmus, BFN
Van Aardt, J
Asner, GP
Wessels, KJ
Mathieu, R
Keywords: Carnegie airborne observatory
Communal rangelands
Resource gradients
Sustainable resource use
Human-modified landscapes
Savannah rangelands
Woody vegetation
Environmental conservation
Issue Date: Nov-2011
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Citation: Fisher, T, Witkowski, ETF, Erasmus, BFN et al. 2011. Human-modified landscapes: patterns of fine-scale woody vegetation structure in communal savannah rangelands. Environmental Conservation(2011), pp 1-11
Series/Report no.: Workflow request;7711
Abstract: Despite electrification, over 90% of rural households in certain areas of South Africa continue to depend on fuelwood, and this affects woody vegetation structure, with associated cascading effects on biodiversity within adjacent lands. To promote sustainable use, the interactions between anthropogenic and environmental factors affecting vegetation structure in savannahs need to be understood. Airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) data collected over 4758 ha were used to examine woody vegetation structure in five communal rangelands around 12 settlements in Bushbuckridge, a municipality in the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Reserve (South Africa). The importance of underlying abiotic factors was evaluated by measuring size class distributions across catenas and using canonical correspondence analysis. Landscape position was significant in determining structure, indicating the importance of underlying biophysical factors. Differences in structure were settlement-specific, related to mean annual precipitation at one site, and human population density and intensity of use at the other four sites. Size class distributions of woody vegetation revealed human disturbance gradients around settlements. Intensity of use affected the amplitude, not the shape, of the size class distribution, suggesting the same height classes were being harvested across settlements, but amount harvested varied between settlements. Highly used rangelands result in a disappearance of disturbance gradients, leading to homogeneous patches of low woody cover around settlements with limited rehabilitation options. Reductions in disturbance gradients can serve as early warning indicators of woodland degradation, a useful tool in planning for conservation and sustainable development.
Description: Copyright: 2011 Cambridge University Press. This is the post print version of the work.
URI: http://www.rairo-ro.org/action/displayAbstract?fromPage=online&aid=8444021&fulltextType=RA&fileId=S0376892911000592
ISSN: 0376-8929
Appears in Collections:Earth observation
Ecosystems processes & dynamics
General science, engineering & technology

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