Understanding the savanna dynamics in relation to rangeland management systems and environmental conditions in semi-arid Botswana
Kgosikoma, Olaotswe Ernest
This thesis investigates the effects of rangeland management systems on savanna ecosystems under different environmental conditions in Botswana, Southern Africa. The soil sampling and vegetation assessment were conducted in twenty–three transects located in communal and ranching grazing lands across three sites. Pastoralists were also interviewed on vegetation change on their respective grazing lands. Soil texture, pH, bulk density and soil organic carbon differed between sites, but not between communal and ranching lands. Soil organic carbon was positively affected by soil clay content. The herbaceous vegetation composition showed heterogeneity between sites, but Matlolakgang and Xanagas rangelands were in poor condition, particularly the communal grazing land that had high cover of increasers II species. Higher herbaceous biomass was observed in ranches than communal lands and biomass also increased with increasing soil organic carbon. Bush encroachment was observed in communal and ranching grazing lands at Matlolakgang and Xanagas, but not Goodhope. Woody plant cover, density and diversity increased with decline in soil clay content, but not linearly. Pastoralists indicated that herbaceous vegetation compositions had changed in some areas, with increase of unpalatable grass species and bush encroachment especially in communal land. Pastoralists considered bush encroachment a problem as it suppress herbaceous vegetation productivity, but they also considered woody vegetation as a valuable grazing resource. The long-term indicators of ecosystem degradation (soil and woody cover) showed that communal and ranching grazing did not affect the savanna ecosystem differently. This is contrary to assumptions of Tribal Grazing Land Policy of Botswana, which promote ranching as a more sustainable management system. The results revealed that rainfall and soil clay strongly influence rangeland condition. These results have implications for the management policies of communal grazing lands throughout sub-Saharan Africa and in similar arid habitats across the world.
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