Current vegetation structure and composition of woody species in community-derived categories of land degradation in a semiarid rangeland in Kunene region, Namibia

Emilia N. Inman, Richard J. Hobbs, Zivanai Tsvuura, Leonie Valentine

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Land degradation has put the world's rangelands under intense pressure and reduced their capacity to provide vital services to those who solely depend on them for survival. With the current pressures on rangelands, worldwide, there is an urgent need to survey the present condition of rangelands. Such detailed surveys can identify where improvement programmes can be emphasised; whether it be reseeding, stock control, sociological restraints or other actions. To combat rangeland degradation, management systems are more effective when they account for community perceptions and practices. This study aims to assess the current status of woody plants in different categories of degradation as perceived by herders in Kunene, Namibia. Furthermore, we wished to compare the perception of degradation by herders with the measured ecological condition. With the help of herders, sites representing different categories of degradation (low, moderate, high and protected) were identified and 10 plots of 400m(2)each were established in each category. Species diversity, density, basal area and regeneration of woody plants increased sequentially along the degradation gradient (high to low). Vegetation attributes such as species diversity, seedling density and standing basal area increased with increasing distances from the villages. Although the herders' perception of degradation, for high and moderate degradation, matches the ecological results, the low degradation sites show signs of bush encroachment, a type of degradation that the herders did not perceive as degradation.Colophospermum mopane, a known encroacher species across Namibia, was the dominant species in the moderate and low degradation sites.Pechuel-loeschea leubnitziae, which is also known to be an indicator of degradation, was the dominant species in the high degradation sites. The findings highlight the present and future threats the study area is facing and form the basis for current restoration research.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages18
JournalLand Degradation & Development
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jun 2020

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