Effects of Prosopis(mesquite) invasion and clearing on vegetation cover in semi-arid Nama Karoo rangeland
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The Nama-Karoo is the largest of the three biomes that comprise the semi-arid Karoo-Namib ecoregion of southern Africa. Large tracts of Nama-Karoo rangeland have been invaded by alien leguminous trees of the genus Prosopis. We assessed the impact of Prosopis invasion and clearing on vegetation cover in heavily grazed Nama-Karoo rangeland on two sheep farms in the Beaufort West district of the Western Cape province of South Africa. Our results suggest that, below critical threshold cover levels, Prosopis trees do not affect indigenous vegetation and add to overall rangeland vegetation cover. However, once Prosopis cover exceeds critical thresholds, the trees begin to negatively impact on indigenous vegetation (especially grasses) and overall vegetation cover. In addition, our data suggest that vegetation cover recovers after Prosopis clearing, being temporarily higher than pre-invasion levels possibly as a result of enhanced post-invasion soil fertility. Lastly, our results suggest that Prosopis trees reduce rangeland erosion potential at low cover and increase it after they exceed critical threshold cover. Information about thresholds of Prosopis impact can be used to direct clearing efforts for maximum benefit when resources are limited.
- RESEARCH: Esler K