Woody vegetation damage by the African elephant during severe drought at Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa

Thornley, Reece, Spencer, Matthew, Zitzer, Heike R and Parr, Catherine L ORCID: 0000-0003-1627-763X
(2020) Woody vegetation damage by the African elephant during severe drought at Pongola Game Reserve, South Africa. AFRICAN JOURNAL OF ECOLOGY, 58 (4). pp. 658-673.

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<jats:title>Abstract</jats:title><jats:p>Elephants (<jats:italic>Loxodonta africana</jats:italic>) significantly alter ecosystem structure and composition through browsing (e.g. pollarding, debarking and toppling). Such browsing is predicted to intensify during severe drought which may become more common with climate change. Here, we make use of an elephant impact survey from 2012 to 2015 and during the El Nino drought of 2015–2016 at Pongola Game Reserve (107 km<jats:sup>2</jats:sup>), KwaZulu‐Natal, to investigate how severe drought influenced damage severity of different tree heights and species by elephants in this small reserve. Contrary to expectations, damage to common species did not change with severe drought. Crown damage had the highest predicted probability across heights (29%–90%) and species (46%–75%) regardless of drought. However, we found severe drought increased the predicted probabilities of crown damage to smaller trees &lt;4 m, mortality &gt;6 m and severe damage at 4–6 m. Consequently, elephant damage during severe drought may alter vegetation structure by severely damaging or killing large trees (&gt;4 m) and extensively damaging the crowns of trees &lt;4 m. Long‐term monitoring of elephant effects on woody vegetation is essential to enable science‐based management in response to future drought and elephant damage (e.g. range expansion, beehive deterrents) to protect elephants and conserve woody vegetation.</jats:p>

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: browser, climate change, ecosystem engineers, large herbivore ecology, large trees, multinomial regression
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 18 May 2020 14:50
Last Modified: 19 Sep 2023 01:12
DOI: 10.1111/aje.12736
Open Access URL: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/a...
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URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3087903