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Colby College

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

Tanzania: Wildlife Ecology and Conservation


Vegetative communities within the savannah ecosystem oscillate between grassland and woodland states. Research has found that ecological perturbations resulting from elephants, fire, other herbivores and humans have a significant influence on the oscillation of vegetative communities. Understanding these forces and how they interplay to influence vegetative dynamics states is essential to a developing any effective conservation management program. A previous study, in 2003, was conducted to establish baseline data on vegetative community structure, elephant damage and fire damage within Ndarakwai Ranch. (Hamilton and Downing 2003). However, the study drew few definitive conclusions and suggested further research. This study was a repeat study and examined the vegetative community dynamics within Ndarakwai Ranch and the role of elephants, fire and other herbivores. Six permanent (40m x 40m) plots in three distinct sites, within the Ranch, were examined. Data was collected to ascertain the current state of vegetation in Ndarakwai and compared to data from the previous study done in 2003. Variables that were recorded include: plant height, circumference, location, percent elephant damage, level of fire damage, seedling counts, grass abundance/cover, and soil type/pH. The study found that plant community structure within each Site changed dramatically from 2003. Evidence suggests that elephants greatly influenced the observed shift in community structure over the past six years. Fire was found to have played a minor role. Findings also indicate that herbivores, other than elephants, might influence woodland regeneration through seedling browsing. This study concluded that the vegetative communities within Ndarakwai Ranch are shifting towards a grassland state. Ecological insularization within the West Kilimanjaro region was discussed as the ultimate cause of the proximate findings and suggested certain management policies that could alleviate its effects.


Terrestrial and Aquatic Ecology



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