Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 23, Issue 10, pp 2415–2426 | Cite as

Equivalence of grasslands in an ecological network and a World Heritage Site

  • Lize Joubert
  • Michael J. Samways
Original Paper


Ecological networks (ENs) of indigenous vegetation among commercial forestry plantations have been implemented to offset the negative effects of the alien plantation trees on local biodiversity. However, it is not known whether these ENs are equivalent to protected areas (PAs) in terms of their grassland biodiversity. To address this knowledge gap, we investigated how well grassland plant species richness and composition in an EN corresponds to similar habitats in an adjacent PA. This took place in grasslands on the east coast of South Africa, and was done at four paired sites using ten replicates at each of the eight sites. Pairwise comparisons (EN vs. PA) of plant species composition yielded statistically smaller differences than comparisons between different pairs of sites within either the EN or PA, illustrating considerable turnover of species whether or not they were in an EN or PA. Overall, there were fewer plant species in the EN for three of the four pairs of sites. Nevertheless, plant species composition was similar in each pair of sites. The grassland EN was also characterized by greater maximum vegetation height and less green vegetation cover. When differences between the EN and a PA were viewed against the natural variation of abiotic and biotic conditions across the landscape, they were small. We conclude that ENs of natural habitat contribute substantially to biodiversity conservation in transformed, commercially-productive landscapes, are almost as good as PAs for maintaining grassland plant diversity.


Biodiversity conservation Afforested landscape matrix Grasses Habitat fragmentation World Heritage Site Plant diversity 



We thank L Ezzy for field assistance, and C Burchmore, G Kruger, M Kruger and L Shaw for providing maps, accommodation at study sites, technical assistance and local knowledge. We also thank Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife, iSimangaliso Wetland Park Authority, Mondi South Africa and SiyaQhubeka Plantations for allowing sampling on their respective properties. The Mondi Ecological Network Programme (MENP) and the National Research Foundation (NRF) of South Africa funded the research.


  1. Archibald S, Bond WJ, Stock WD, Fairbanks DHK (2005) Shaping the landscape: fire-grazer interactions in an African savanna. Ecol Appl 15:96–109CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Attwell CAM (1982) Population ecology of the blue wildebeest Connochaetes taurinus in Zululand, South Africa. Afr J Ecol 20:147–168CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bond WJ, Keeley JE (2005) Fire as global “herbivore”: the ecology and evolution of flammable ecosystems. Trends Ecol Evol 20:387–394PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Carey AB, Johnson ML (1995) Small mammals in managed, naturally young, and old-growth forests. Ecol Appl 5:336–352CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Clarke KR, Warwick RM (2001) Change in marine communities: an approach to statistical analysis and interpretation. PRIMER-E, PlymouthGoogle Scholar
  6. Govender N, van Trollope WSW, Wilgen BW (2006) The effect of fire season, fire frequency, rainfall and management on fire intensity in savanna vegetation in South Africa. J Appl Ecol 43:748–758CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Grubb P (1981) Equus burchelli. Amer Soc Mammal 157:1–9Google Scholar
  8. Jaksic FM (1986) Predation upon small mammals in shrublands and grasslands of southern South America: ecological correlates and presumable consequences. Rev Chil Hist Nat 59:209–221Google Scholar
  9. Jongman RHG (2004) The context and concept of ecological networks. In: Jongman RHG, Pungetti G (eds) Ecological networks and greenways: concept, design, implementation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 7–33CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Keeley JE (1998) Postfire ecosystem recovery and management: the October 1993 large fire episode in California. In: Moreno JM (ed) Large forest fires. Backhuys, Leiden, pp 69–90Google Scholar
  11. McIntyre S, Lavorel S (2001) Livestock grazing in subtropical pastures: steps in the analysis of attribute response and plant functional types. J Ecol 89:209–226CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. McIvor JG, McIntyre S, Saeli I, Hodgkinson JJ (2005) Patch dynamics in grazed subtropical native pastures in south-east Queensland. Austral Ecol 30:445–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. McNaughton SJ (1984) Grazing lawns: animals in herds, plant form and coevolution. Am Nat 124:863–886CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Mucina L, Wardell-Johnson GW (2011) Landscape age and soil fertility, climate stability, and fire regime predictability: beyond the OCBIL framework. Plant Soil 341:1–23CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Mucina L, Rutherford MC, Powrie LW (2005) Vegetation map of South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland, 1:1000000 scale sheet maps. South African National Biodiversity Institute (SANBI), PretoriaGoogle Scholar
  16. Neke KS, du Plessis MA (2004) The threat of transformation: quantifying the vulnerability of grasslands in South Africa. Conserv Biol 18:466–477Google Scholar
  17. Noy-Meir I (1995) Interactive effects of fire and grazing on structure and diversity of Mediterranean grasslands. J Veg Sci 6:701–710CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Noy-Meir I, Gutman M, Kaplan Y (1989) Responses of Mediterranean grassland plants to grazing and protection. J Ecol 77:290–310CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. O’Connor TG (1991) Local extinction in perennial grasslands: a life-history approach. Am Nat 137:753–773CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. O’Connor TG, Kuyler P (2009) Impact of land use on the biodiversity integrity of the moist sub-biome of the grassland biome, South Africa. J Environ Manag 90:384–395CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Parr CL, Andersen AN (2006) Patch mosaic burning for biodiversity conservation: a critique of the pyrodiversity paradigm. Conserv Biol 20:1610–1619PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Pryke SR, Samways MJ (2001) Width of grassland linkages for the conservation of butterflies in South African afforested areas. Biol Conserv 101:85–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Pryke JS, Samways MJ (2012) Conservation management of complex natural forest and plantation edge effects. Landsc Ecol 27:73–85CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Roques KG, O’Connor TG, Watkinson AR (2001) Dynamics of shrub encroachment in an African savanna: relative influences of fire, herbivory, rainfall and density dependence. J Appl Ecol 38:268–280CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Samways MJ (2007) Implementing ecological networks for conserving insect and other biodiversity. In: Stewart AJA, New TR, Lewis OT (eds) Insect conservation biology. CAB International, Wallingford, pp 127–143CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Samways MJ, Bazelet CS, Pryke JS (2010) Provision of ecosystem services by large scale corridors and ecological networks. Biodivers Conserv 19:2949–2962CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. SGS Qualifor (2007) Forest management certification report: Forest Management Certificate for SiyaQhubeka Forests, document no. AD 36-A-05. Unpublished Report. SGS South Africa (Qualifor Programme) Systems and Services Certificate Division, Richards BayGoogle Scholar
  28. United Nations Environment Programme and World Conservation Monitoring Centre (2011) World Heritage Sites: protected areas and world heritage. iSimangaliso Wetland Park, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Accessed 19 Oct 2012
  29. van Wilgen BW, Govender N, Biggs HC (2007) The contribution of fire research to fire management: a critical review of a long-term experiment in the Kruger National Park, South Africa. Intern J Wild Fire 16:519–530CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. van Wilgen BW, Govender N, MacFadyen S (2008) An assessment of the implementation and outcomes of recent changes to fire management in the Kruger National Park. Koedoe 50:22–31Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Conservation Ecology and EntomologyStellenbosch UniversityMatielandSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations