Vegetation and soil recovery following Eucalyptus grandis removal in Limpopo Province, South Africa
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South African terrestrial ecosystems are invaded by hundreds of alien plant species, and large-scale clearing based on the passive restoration assumption that cleared areas will recover unaided is underway. This study assessed the recovery of vegetation and soil properties, three years following Eucalyptus grandis clearing using fell-and-removal and fell-and-stackburn methods at Zvakanaka Farm in Limpopo Province, South Africa. The main aim was to ascertain the extent of vegetation and soil recovery, as well as determining which clearing methods facilitate passive vegetation and soil restoration. Results indicate significantly (p < 0.001) lower native species diversity, cover and composition in cleared than in uninvaded sites. However, the recorded low species diversity and composition in cleared sites were more pronounced in the fell-and-stackburn than in the fell-and-removal sites. Measured soil physical properties varied, with compaction being higher in fell-and-removal, whereas soils were more repellent in fell-and-stackburn sites. The study concludes that vegetation and soil recovery, following E. grandis clearing, is complex and involves several interacting factors, which are linked to invasion history and intensity. Therefore, for vegetation and soil properties to recover, following E. grandis removal, the clearing programme should consider active restoration techniques, for example soil manipulation and native plant seeding.
- RESEARCH: Ruwanza, S