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Research Project: Global Change in Semi-Arid Rangelands: Ecosystem Responses and Management Adaptations

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Title: Strategic management of livestock to improve biodiversity conservation in African savannahs: A conceptual basis for wildlife-livestock coexistence

Author
item Fynn, Richard - University Of Botswana
item Augustine, David
item Peel, Michael - Agricultural Research Council Of South Africa
item De Barine-wichatitsk, Michel - University Of Zimbabwe

Submitted to: Journal of Applied Ecology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/28/2015
Publication Date: 4/21/2016
Citation: Fynn, R.W., Augustine, D.J., Peel, M.J., De Barine-Wichatitsk, M. 2016. Strategic management of livestock to improve biodiversity conservation in African savannahs: A conceptual basis for wildlife-livestock coexistence. Journal of Applied Ecology. 53:388.397. doi:10.1111/1365-2664.12591.

Interpretive Summary: The conservation of African savannas depends our understanding of both their biology and of the people and institutions that manage them. One important aspect of their biology is the high degree of variability in the habitats (e.g. topography, soil types, and vegetation types) that occur in savannas. An important aspect of the people and institutions that manage them are the rules governing livestock movement among habitats and across seasons in savannas. As African savannas become increasingly fragmented by growing human populations, foraging options for wild and domestic herbivore populations are correspondingly limited. This often results in livestock losing access to grazing opportunities in portions of savanna landscapes, declining wildlife populations and impoverished pastoral societies. Conservation initiatives are further impacted by conflicts between wildlife and local communities of people (LCs) who often receive little benefit from adjacent protected areas, creating conflict between the livelihood-orientated goals of LCs and the conservation-oriented goals of the international community and those with vested interests in wildlife. Conservation strategies facilitating the alignment of these opposing goals of LCs and conservationists are needed. Livestock populations can be managed not only to minimize competition with wild herbivores, but to enhance habitat for wild herbivores by increasing the opportunities for livestock to move among habitats within savannas on a seasonal basis. This can create more nutrient hotspots in the landscape and facilitation of high-quality grazing. Local communities living in African savannas can benefit through controlled access to grazing resources in protected areas (wildlife management areas, forest reserves, national parks) in association with appropriate disease management, and this can provide a conservation payment to facilitate LC support for the conservation of key wildlife migratory ranges and movement corridors outside protected areas.

Technical Abstract: African savannas are complex socio-ecological systems with diverse wild and domestic herbivore assemblages, which utilize functional heterogeneity of habitats to adapt to intra- and inter-annual variation in forage quantity and quality, predation and disease risks. As African savannas become increasingly fragmented by growing human populations and their associated ecological impacts, adaptive foraging options for wild and domestic herbivore populations are correspondingly limited, resulting in declining wildlife populations and impoverished pastoral societies. In addition, competition for grazing by expanding livestock populations threatens to reduce functional heterogeneity by homogenizing grassland structure, and reducing the viability of wildlife populations occupying similar grazing niches such as buffalo (Syncerus caffer) and zebra (Equus quagga). Conservation initiatives are further impacted by conflicts between wildlife and local communities of people (LCs) who often receive little benefit from adjacent protected areas, creating conflict between the livelihood-orientated goals of LCs and the conservation-oriented goals of the international community and those with vested interests in wildlife. Conservation strategies facilitating the alignment of these opposing goals of LCs and conservationists are needed. Synthesis and applications. Key to understanding facilitative and competitive interactions between wild and domestic herbivores are the concepts of niche differentiation and functional habitat heterogeneity. Livestock populations can be managed not only to minimize competition with wild herbivores, but to enhance habitat for wild herbivores by maximizing grassland structural heterogeneity (greater adaptive foraging options), creation of nutrient hotspots in the landscape and facilitation of high-quality grazing. Ecosystem service benefits to LCs through controlled access to grazing resources in protected areas (wildlife management areas, forest reserves, national parks); associated with appropriate disease management, can provide a conservation payment to facilitate LC support for the conservation of key wildlife migratory ranges and movement corridors outside protected areas and to reduce poaching.