Abstract:

Long term landscape changes in vegetation structure: A focus on fire as a wetland management tool

Linda B Luvuno1, Damian Walters2, Donovan Kotze2, Craig Morris3, Kevin Kirkman1, Elhadi Adam1

1Grassland Science, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.
2Mondi Wetlands Programme, Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa, Howick
3Agricultural Research Council, Scottsville, Pietermaritzburg.

Land cover change is regarded as a significant variable of global change affecting ecosystems with an impact on the environment that is equivalent to climate change. Long-term ecological research has revealed that the legacies of historic land-use activities continue to influence the long-term composition, structure, and function of ecosystems decades and centuries after the activity has ceased. This signifies that present ecosystem conditions must be understood in the context that incorporates past land use and natural disturbance, suggesting that conservation efforts should be focused on altered ecosystems and need a better dialogue between research and land management to better manage altered ecosystems. This need for contextual and amalgamated understanding of ecosystems suggests that research should be done at multiple temporal and spatial scales. This study uses remote sensing to accomplish this need for the Kwambonambi area, focusing on wetlands, where fire is thought to play a significant role in maintaining their structure and composition. This need arises from a paucity of relevant research needed to support the management of wetlands in this altered, rapidly changing ecosystem supporting the critically endangered Kniphofia leucocephala. Land cover maps were created using aerial images from 1937, 1970 and 2009. These were then run through a change detection modeler. Results illustrates plantation and indigenous-forest having the greatest increase with grassland and herbaceous wetlands having the most significant decrease, demonstrating a shift from mainly herbaceous vegetation to woody vegetation. Unchanged herbaceous wetlands are those which had not been changed to plantation (disturbed) and have had fire as a management strategy. We can then hypothesize that disturbance linked with fire suppression is the main cause of this shift-relating the significance of fire as a management strategy. This study illustrates the efficiency of remote sensing in monitoring land cover change and its potential to aid decision-making.

Presentation Topic

Long term landscape changes in vegetation structure: A focus on fire as a wetland management tool

 

Contact Ms Luvuno:

Grassland Science, School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.

 

Email Ms Luvuno