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An Assessment of Multiple Drivers Determining Woody Species Composition and Structure: A Case Study from the Kalahari, Botswana

1
Department of Geography and then Environment, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, TX 78712, USA
2
Department of Geography, University College Cork, Cork T12K8AF, Ireland
3
Environmental Research Institute, University College Cork, Cork T23XE10, Ireland
4
Department of Environmental Science, Policy, & Management, University of California Berkeley, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA
5
Department of Geography, University of California Los Angeles, CA 90095, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Land 2019, 8(8), 122; https://doi.org/10.3390/land8080122
Received: 29 June 2019 / Revised: 27 July 2019 / Accepted: 1 August 2019 / Published: 5 August 2019
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Global Vegetation and Land Surface Dynamics in a Changing Climate)
Savannas are extremely important socio-economic landscapes, with pastoralist societies relying on these ecosystems to sustain their livelihoods and economy. Globally, there is an increase of woody vegetation in these ecosystems, degrading the potential of these multi-functional landscapes to sustain societies and wildlife. Several mechanisms have been invoked to explain the processes responsible for woody vegetation composition; however, these are often investigated separately at scales not best suited to land-managers, thereby impeding the evaluation of their relative importance. We ran six transects at 15 sites along the Kalahari transect, collecting data on species identity, diversity, and abundance. We used Poisson and Tobit regression models to investigate the relationship among woody vegetation, precipitation, grazing, borehole density, and fire. We identified 44 species across 78 transects, with the highest species richness and abundance occurring at Kuke (middle of the rainfall gradient). Precipitation was the most important environmental variable across all species and various morphological groups, while increased borehole density and livestock resulted in lower bipinnate species abundance, contradicting the consensus that these managed features increase the presence of such species. Rotating cattle between boreholes subsequently reduces the impact of trampling and grazing on the soil and maintains and/or reduces woody vegetation abundance. View Full-Text
Keywords: conservation; fire; grazing; savanna; woody vegetation conservation; fire; grazing; savanna; woody vegetation
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Meyer, T.; Holloway, P.; Christiansen, T.B.; Miller, J.A.; D’Odorico, P.; Okin, G.S. An Assessment of Multiple Drivers Determining Woody Species Composition and Structure: A Case Study from the Kalahari, Botswana. Land 2019, 8, 122.

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