Special Issue "Landscape Changes in Savanna Systems: Understanding the Roles of Climate, Vegetation Dynamics, Parks and Protected Areas, Resources, People and Livelihoods"

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A special issue of Land (ISSN 2073-445X).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2013)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Jane Southworth (Website)

Department of Geography, Land Use & Environmental Change Institute (LUECI), Florida Climate Institute (FCI), University of Florida, TUR 3141, Gainesville, FL 32611, USA
Phone: 352 3920494
Interests: land change science; remote sensing of land cover; climate variability; human-environmental interaction; people and parks: social-ecological system resilience

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

The Kavango-Kwandu-Zambezi catchments that comprise our study area support an unmatched diversity of large mammal species and represent major investments in protected areas in the form of the Kavango-Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area’s component parks and community conservation areas. Savanna vegetation ecosystem processes, and their phenological expression, are heavily influenced by climate variability. The IPCC (2007) predicts that southern Africa will experience an increase in climate variability and a decrease in precipitation. The research presented in this issue represents interactions of the human-environment system and also looks across spatial scales. At a regional scale the ecosystems have different resilience characteristics, and different response pathways to climatic perturbations, and at that time-scale analyses provide a significant improvement in methods for measuring and evaluating landscape resilience. Changes in climate are clearly driving change in some landscapes, if not in others, at scales that human managers cannot perceive easily. At more local scales, however, land use and management decisions are also relevant, and, perhaps of even greater importance, are the changes in variability. We look at how different regions and land management/livelihood strategies respond to past climate variability as well as issues related to other landscape drivers - herbivory, wildlife and parks. Overall this set of papers provides an in depth and interdisciplinary look at the land and landscapes of Southern Africa, experiencing significant climatic variability and various development strategies, as well as interesting linkages to wildlife and tourism, all across a four nation region (Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Angola).

Dr. Jane Southworth
Guest Editor

Submission

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Keywords

  • climate variability
  • Southern Africa
  • livelihoods
  • parks
  • landscape heterogeneity
  • savannas
  • remote sensing
  • vulnerability

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Spatio-Temporal Analysis of Vegetation Dynamics in Relation to Shifting Inundation and Fire Regimes: Disentangling Environmental Variability from Land Management Decisions in a Southern African Transboundary Watershed
Land 2015, 4(3), 627-655; doi:10.3390/land4030627
Received: 5 April 2015 / Revised: 18 June 2015 / Accepted: 14 July 2015 / Published: 27 July 2015
PDF Full-text (9601 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Increasing temperatures and wildfire incidence and decreasing precipitation and river runoff in southern Africa are predicted to have a variety of impacts on the ecology, structure, and function of semi-arid savannas, which provide innumerable livelihood resources for millions of people. This paper [...] Read more.
Increasing temperatures and wildfire incidence and decreasing precipitation and river runoff in southern Africa are predicted to have a variety of impacts on the ecology, structure, and function of semi-arid savannas, which provide innumerable livelihood resources for millions of people. This paper builds on previous research that documents change in inundation and fire regimes in the Chobe River Basin (CRB) in Namibia and Botswana and proposes to demonstrate a methodology that can be applied to disentangle the effect of environmental variability from land management decisions on changing and ecologically sensitive savanna ecosystems in transboundary contexts. We characterized the temporal dynamics (1985–2010) of vegetation productivity for the CRB using proxies of vegetation productivity and examine the relative importance of shifts in flooding and fire patterns to vegetation dynamics and effects of the association of phases of the El Niño—Southern Oscillation (ENSO) on vegetation greenness. Our results indicate that vegetation in these semi-arid environments is highly responsive to climatic fluctuations and the long-term trend is one of increased but heterogeneous vegetation cover. The increased cover and heterogeneity during the growing season is especially noted in communally-managed areas of Botswana where long-term fire suppression has been instituted, in contrast to communal areas in Namibia where heterogeneity in vegetation cover is mostly increasing primarily outside of the growing season and may correspond to mosaic early dry season burns. Observed patterns of increased vegetation productivity and heterogeneity may relate to more frequent and intense burning and higher spatial variability in surface water availability from both precipitation and regional inundation patterns, with implications for global environmental change and adaptation in subsistence-based communities. Full article
Open AccessArticle Analyzing Vegetation Change in an Elephant-Impacted Landscape Using the Moving Standard Deviation Index
Land 2014, 3(1), 74-104; doi:10.3390/land3010074
Received: 25 November 2013 / Revised: 7 January 2014 / Accepted: 8 January 2014 / Published: 16 January 2014
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (4256 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text | Supplementary Files
Abstract
Northern Botswana is influenced by various socio-ecological drivers of landscape change. The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is one of the leading sources of landscape shifts in this region. Developing the ability to assess elephant impacts on savanna vegetation is important [...] Read more.
Northern Botswana is influenced by various socio-ecological drivers of landscape change. The African elephant (Loxodonta africana) is one of the leading sources of landscape shifts in this region. Developing the ability to assess elephant impacts on savanna vegetation is important to promote effective management strategies. The Moving Standard Deviation Index (MSDI) applies a standard deviation calculation to remote sensing imagery to assess degradation of vegetation. Used previously for assessing impacts of livestock on rangelands, we evaluate the ability of the MSDI to detect elephant-modified vegetation along the Chobe riverfront in Botswana, a heavily elephant-impacted landscape. At broad scales, MSDI values are positively related to elephant utilization. At finer scales, using data from 257 sites along the riverfront, MSDI values show a consistent negative relationship with intensity of elephant utilization. We suggest that these differences are due to varying effects of elephants across scales. Elephant utilization of vegetation may increase heterogeneity across the landscape, but decrease it within heavily used patches, resulting in the observed MSDI pattern of divergent trends at different scales. While significant, the low explanatory power of the relationship between the MSDI and elephant utilization suggests the MSDI may have limited use for regional monitoring of elephant impacts. Full article
Open AccessArticle Integrating Dendrochronology, Climate and Satellite Remote Sensing to Better Understand Savanna Landscape Dynamics in the Okavango Delta, Botswana
Land 2013, 2(4), 637-655; doi:10.3390/land2040637
Received: 19 September 2013 / Revised: 16 October 2013 / Accepted: 6 November 2013 / Published: 20 November 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (2520 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This research examines the integration and potential uses of linkages between climate dynamics, savanna vegetation and landscape level processes within a highly vulnerable region, both in terms of climate variability and social systems. We explore the combined applications of two time-series methodologies: [...] Read more.
This research examines the integration and potential uses of linkages between climate dynamics, savanna vegetation and landscape level processes within a highly vulnerable region, both in terms of climate variability and social systems. We explore the combined applications of two time-series methodologies: (1) climate signals detected in tree ring growth, from published literature, chronologies from the International Tree-Ring Data Bank, and minimal preliminary field data; and (2) new primary production (NPP) data of vegetation cover over time derived from remotely sensed analyses. Both time-series are related to the regional patterns of precipitation, the principle driver of plant growth in the area. The approach is temporally and spatially multiscalar and examines the relationships between vegetation cover, type and amount, and precipitation shifts. We review literature linking dendrochronology, climate, and remotely sensed imagery, and, in addition, provide unique preliminary analyses from a dry study site located on the outer limit of the Okavango Delta. The work demonstrates integration across the different data sources, to provide a more holistic view of landscape level processes occurring in the last 30-50 years. These results corroborate the water-limited nature of the region and the dominance of precipitation in controlling vegetation growth. We present this integrative analysis of vegetation and climate change, as a prospective approach to facilitate the development of long-term climate/vegetation change records across multiple scales. Full article
Open AccessArticle Forefronting the Socio-Ecological in Savanna Landscapes through Their Spatial and Temporal Contingencies
Land 2013, 2(3), 452-471; doi:10.3390/land2030452
Received: 18 July 2013 / Revised: 23 August 2013 / Accepted: 26 August 2013 / Published: 5 September 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (276 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Landscape changes and the processes driving them have been a critical component in both research and management efforts of savanna systems. These dynamics impact human populations, wildlife, carbon storage, and general spatio-temporal dynamism in response to both anthropomorphic and climatic shifts. Both [...] Read more.
Landscape changes and the processes driving them have been a critical component in both research and management efforts of savanna systems. These dynamics impact human populations, wildlife, carbon storage, and general spatio-temporal dynamism in response to both anthropomorphic and climatic shifts. Both biophysical and human agents of change can be identified by isolating their respective spatial, temporal, and organizational contingencies. However, we argue here that a significant portion of savanna research has either considered humans as exogenous (e.g., via enacting regional or broader policies) or somewhat spatio-temporally removed from the system (e.g., as in many protected areas with limited current human habitation). Examples from African savanna research and particularly those systems of southern Africa are thus reviewed and used to model a stylized or prototypical savanna system and contingencies. Such an approach allows for a richer socio-temporal integration of theories and data on past biophysical and human histories to facilitate an improved framework for understanding savanna systems and their complex contingencies as socio-ecological landscapes. Full article
Open AccessArticle Beyond Awareness and Self-Governance: Approaching Kavango Timber Users’ Real-Life Choices
Land 2013, 2(3), 392-418; doi:10.3390/land2030392
Received: 17 December 2012 / Revised: 10 July 2013 / Accepted: 10 July 2013 / Published: 25 July 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (343 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Targeted illegal harvesting of hardwood in the woodland of Namibia’s Kavango region threatens forest stands. In a transforming setting, where wood is increasingly traded through value chains on a globalized market, local harvesters have complex incentives but also a crucially important position. [...] Read more.
Targeted illegal harvesting of hardwood in the woodland of Namibia’s Kavango region threatens forest stands. In a transforming setting, where wood is increasingly traded through value chains on a globalized market, local harvesters have complex incentives but also a crucially important position. Sustainability largely depends on their choices. Such choices are being influenced by awareness campaigns and decentralized forest management, which are being lauded and supported. Having produced an ethnographic awareness film (AF) on the problem of logging and the opportunities for community forests (CF) to reduce extractions while raising community income, we approach the influence of the instruments of film and community forests on forest-users’ real life choices with an economic public goods game. We compare villages that have experienced influences to a differing degree. We find more extraction in AF and no effect for CF at village level. Instead, the extractive impact of certain experimental and free riding personality types, whose strategies remain stable across the experiment, is equally distributed among villages. We discuss methodological implications and the fact that in a situation of ecological and socio-economic challenges certain players use game and real life opportunities to decouple individual choice from problem awareness and the social control-setting. Full article
Open AccessArticle Local Perception of Risk to Livelihoods in the Semi-Arid Landscape of Southern Africa
Land 2013, 2(2), 225-251; doi:10.3390/land2020225
Received: 24 March 2013 / Revised: 3 May 2013 / Accepted: 6 May 2013 / Published: 15 May 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (735 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
The United Nations and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deem many regions of southern Africa as vulnerable landscapes due to changing climatic regimes, ecological conditions, and low adaptive capacity. Typically in highly vulnerable regions, multiple livelihood strategies are employed to enable sustainable [...] Read more.
The United Nations and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change deem many regions of southern Africa as vulnerable landscapes due to changing climatic regimes, ecological conditions, and low adaptive capacity. Typically in highly vulnerable regions, multiple livelihood strategies are employed to enable sustainable development. In Botswana, livelihood strategies have diversified over time to include tourism and other non-agricultural activities. While such diversification and development have been studied, little is known about how locals perceive livelihood risks. This article analyzes perceptions of risk through a risk hazards framework. During the summer of 2010, 330 surveys were completed within seven villages in northern Botswana and the Caprivi Strip of Namibia. During the survey respondents were asked to list the biggest threats/challenges to their livelihoods. Responses were grouped into categories of risk according to the capital assets on which livelihoods depend: natural, physical, financial, human, and social. A risk mapping procedure was utilized, for which indices of severity, incidence, and risk were calculated. It is hypothesized that people’s perception of risk is directly dependent on environmental conditions and employment status of the household. Results indicate that problems related to natural and financial assets are the greatest source of risk to livelihoods. Furthermore, flood, drought, and other measures of climate variability are perceived as influential, typically negatively, to livelihood strategies. Full article
Open AccessCommunication Multifunctional Rangeland in Southern Africa: Managing for Production, Conservation, and Resilience with Fire and Grazing
Land 2013, 2(2), 176-193; doi:10.3390/land2020176
Received: 5 March 2013 / Accepted: 22 April 2013 / Published: 6 May 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (330 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Residents of Southern Africa depend on rangeland for food, livelihoods, and ecosystem services. Sustainable management of rangeland ecosystems requires attention to interactive effects of fire and grazing in a changing climate. It is essential to compare rangeland responses to fire and grazing [...] Read more.
Residents of Southern Africa depend on rangeland for food, livelihoods, and ecosystem services. Sustainable management of rangeland ecosystems requires attention to interactive effects of fire and grazing in a changing climate. It is essential to compare rangeland responses to fire and grazing across space and through time to understand the effects of rangeland management practices on biodiversity and ecosystem services in an era of global climate change. We propose a paradigm of ecologically-analogous rangeland management within the context of multifunctional landscapes to guide design and application of ecosystem-based rangeland research in Southern Africa. We synthesize range science from the North American Great Plains and Southern African savannas into a proposal for fire and grazing research on rangeland in Southern Africa. We discuss how management for the fire-grazing interaction might advance multiple goals including agricultural productivity, biodiversity conservation, and resilience to increased variability under global change. Finally, we discuss several ecological and social issues important to the effective development of sustainable rangeland practices especially within the context of global climate change. The associated literature review serves as a comprehensive bibliography for sustainable rangeland management and development across the savanna biomes of Southern Africa. Full article
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Open AccessArticle Using Remote Sensing to Quantify Vegetation Change and Ecological Resilience in a Semi-Arid System
Land 2013, 2(2), 108-130; doi:10.3390/land2020108
Received: 15 February 2013 / Revised: 13 March 2013 / Accepted: 18 March 2013 / Published: 8 April 2013
Cited by 6 | PDF Full-text (1056 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This research extends upon land cover change studies by incorporating methodological approaches, which are compatible with heterogeneous ecosystems, are able to link landscape changes to system processes, such as climate change, and provide potential linkages to concepts of ecological resilience. The study [...] Read more.
This research extends upon land cover change studies by incorporating methodological approaches, which are compatible with heterogeneous ecosystems, are able to link landscape changes to system processes, such as climate change, and provide potential linkages to concepts of ecological resilience. The study region in southern Africa experienced a significant climatic shift in the 1970s, resulting in drier conditions. The state of these ecosystems and their response to such climatic shock is quantified in terms of vegetation amount and heterogeneity. We monitor these characteristics pre- and post-disturbance using a Landsat image series and examine the utility of continuous characterizations of land cover for measuring ecosystem resilience. Land cover change is evaluated using a mean-variance analysis in concert with a spatial persistence analysis. This investigation indicates that although the impact of the decreased precipitation is evident in the 1980s, recovery occurred by the 1990s and 2000s. We found the continuous methodological approach used holds potential for studying heterogeneous landscapes within a resilience framework. Full article
Open AccessArticle On Demand, Development and Dependence: A Review of Current and Future Implications of Socioeconomic Changes for Integrated Water Resource Management in the Okavango Catchment of Southern Africa
Land 2013, 2(1), 60-80; doi:10.3390/land2010060
Received: 3 January 2013 / Revised: 13 February 2013 / Accepted: 21 February 2013 / Published: 28 February 2013
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (1816 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Water is both a key and limited resource in the Okavango Catchment of Southern Africa. It is vital for the ecosystem and the three riparian states Angola, Botswana and Namibia who use the water of the catchment for multiple purposes including pastoralism, [...] Read more.
Water is both a key and limited resource in the Okavango Catchment of Southern Africa. It is vital for the ecosystem and the three riparian states Angola, Botswana and Namibia who use the water of the catchment for multiple purposes including pastoralism, farming and tourism. Socioeconomic changes, primarily strong population growth and increasing development demands pose significant challenges for the Okavango Catchment and its Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). In this paper, we first review the socioeconomic background and the current and projected water situation. Against this background, we analyze the dependence of the riparian states and the local livelihoods on the Okavango Catchment. Third, we discuss the implications of socioeconomic changes and increased water demand for the IWRM in the catchment. We review the scientific literature and relevant reports. Further we utilize (geo-spatial) analysis of socioeconomic, livelihood and hydrological data, supplemented by a field visit to Namibia and Botswana. Our findings suggest that strong population growth and the stabilization of Angola are likely to increase the pressure to develop the region along the Okavango. The central challenge for IWRM is hence to enable Angola to meet its development needs without limiting livelihood and economic prospects in Botswana and Namibia. Full article
Open AccessArticle The Effectiveness of Conservation Reserves: Land Tenure Impacts upon Biodiversity across Extensive Natural Landscapes in the Tropical Savannahs of the Northern Territory, Australia
Land 2013, 2(1), 20-36; doi:10.3390/land2010020
Received: 27 November 2012 / Revised: 8 January 2013 / Accepted: 9 January 2013 / Published: 22 January 2013
Cited by 1 | PDF Full-text (599 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
This study examines whether there is a biodiversity benefit (“dividend”) associated with the existence and management of conservation reserves in the extensive and largely natural landscape of northern Australia. Species richness and abundance of vertebrate fauna and the intensity of a range [...] Read more.
This study examines whether there is a biodiversity benefit (“dividend”) associated with the existence and management of conservation reserves in the extensive and largely natural landscape of northern Australia. Species richness and abundance of vertebrate fauna and the intensity of a range of disturbance factors were compared across a set of 967 sampled quadrats, located either in pastoral lands, Indigenous lands or conservation reserves, with all sampled quadrats within a single vegetation type (open forests and savannah woodlands dominated by Eucalyptus miniata and/or E. tetrodonta). The relationships with land tenure varied between major taxonomic groups, but generally (and particularly for threatened species) values were highest for conservation reserves. This “biodiversity dividend” associated with conservation reserves is considered to be due to the effects of management rather than because conservation reserves were established on lands supporting atypically high conservation values. The impact of weeds and (unsurprisingly) livestock was greatest on pastoral lands, and pig impact was greatest in conservation reserves. Although pastoral and Indigenous lands supported lower biodiversity tallies than reserved lands, the conservation values of reserved lands in this region are probably substantially supported by the maintenance of relatively intact ecological systems across all lands. Full article

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