Termitaria as browsing hotspots for African megaherbivores in miombo woodland
Thirteen termite mounds and 13 similar-sized control plots were surveyed in central Zimbabwe in order to study large mammalian browsing and vegetation characteristics. The mounds supported almost twice as many tree species as the control plots and the woody vegetation was denser on mounds compared with the woodland plots. Species of woody plants were recorded along with the percentage of branches browsed (cumulative browsing score) by black rhino, Diceros bicornis, elephant, Loxodonta africana and other browsers combined. In addition we measured how the cumulative browsing score on three woody plant species, Acacia nilotica, Colophospermum mopane and Dichrostachys cinerea, which were common both on and off mounds, was related to the distance from mound centre. Both black rhino and elephant cumulative browsing scores were significantly higher on the mound plants compared with the woodland plots. Cumulative browsing score was negatively related to distance from the mound centre for Dichrostachys cinerea, Colophospermum mopane and Acacia nilotica. We propose that termite mound construction in miombo woodland contributes to sustaining populations of megaherbivores and perhaps some woody species in these areas.(Accepted April 28 2003)
Key Words: browsing ecology; Diceros bicornis; elephant; Loxodonta africana; miombo; rhinoceros; termitaria; Zimbabwe.
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