Linear structures in the Karoo, South Africa, and their impacts on biota
Linear structures include fences, roads, railways, canalised water ways and power lines, all man-made. Fencing as a way of managing livestock began in the late 1800s, and by the early twentieth century was almost fully implemented throughout the Karoo sensu lato. The advent of these fences, and now in many instances, ‘game proof’ (~2 m high) and electric fences have impacted native flora and fauna in various ways. Roads influence the quality and quantity of vegetation along corridors throughout the Karoo, with impacts on wildlife through increased mortality, but also provide foraging opportunities. Road-side structures, such as transmission poles, offer nest sites and perches in otherwise treeless landscapes, benefiting certain avifauna. Railway lines create similar corridors, carrying ungrazed vegetation along them. Their associated structures – culverts and (historically) steel frame bridges – provide nest sites for birds and some mammals. Transmission cables and pylons along power lines have mixed benefits to conservation, providing bird nest and perch sites, but can also cause bird mortalities. Unquestionably, these linear structures have had marked effects on the biota of the Karoo, through their effects on wildlife and livestock movement and mortality, plant demography and the spread of native and alien species.
Keywords: fencing, high tension pylons, railways, roads, road verges