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oa Koedoe : African Protected Area Conservation and Science - Influence of fire frequency on and woodland structure and composition in Northern Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe : original research

 

Abstract

We investigated the long-term effects of fire frequency on and woodland structure and composition in northern Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), Zimbabwe. Fire frequency was categorised as high (every 1-2 years), medium (every 3-4 years) and low (every 5-6 years). The following variables were measured or recorded: plant height, species name, canopy depth and diameter, basal circumference, number of stems per plant, plant status (dead or alive) and number of woody plants in a plot. There was a positive correlation (r = 0.55, P = 0.0007) between annual area burnt (total from January to December) and annual rainfall (average over two rain stations per rain year, July to June) between 1972 and 2005. A total of 64 woody species were recorded from and woodlands. Mean plant height increased from 4.5 to 8.2 meters in woodland and from 4.5 to 5.1 meters in woodland in areas subjected to high and low fire frequencies. In woodland, low fire frequency was characterised by a significantly low density of woody plants (P < 0.001), however, with a significantly high mean basal area (P < 0.001). Fire frequency had no significant effect on species diversity (P > 0.05). Our results suggest that and woodlands are in a state of structural transformation. Fire frequency effects, however, appear to be woodland specific. Fire management strategies in GNP should take into consideration annual rainfall and the different vegetation types.


This study provides valuable information on fire frequency effects on woody vegetation in northern GNP, which can be used in fire management programmes for the park. The positive relationship between annual rainfall and annual area burnt emphasises the need for wildlife managers to consider annual rainfall in fire management.

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/content/koedoe/51/1/EJC139614
2009-01-01
2016-12-07
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