Variation in mammal species richness and relative abundance in the Karoo
Understanding how climate change and land transformation may impact the distribution and diversity of wildlife species requires landscape-level foundational biodiversity surveys. The Karoo BioGaps Project aims to provide such data and to support the scientific assessment for shale gas development projects in the Karoo basin. In this paper we present the findings of the BioGaps mammal survey, which recorded medium and large mammals across twenty-five 1 km × 1 km sampling sites within the proposed fracking footprint using camera trapping techniques. We use sample rarefaction curves, non-parametric species richness estimators and non-metric multidimensional scaling plots to explore both species richness and community structure. We also used a generalised linear model to investigate how species diversity varies with both site-specific and landscape-level predictors. A total of 38 species were recorded at the majority of sites. Longitude (z = 4.018, p = 0.0005) emerged as the best predictor of species diversity across the study area, which we suggest is linked to the clear east–west aridity gradient. Together these results reveal the cosmopolitan distribution of the mammal taxa in the Karoo and could be used to inform decisionmaking linked to mining activities in the area.
Keywords: Karoo, mammals, shale gas