A comparison of the effects of different rangeland management systems on plant species composition, diversity and vegetation structure in a semi-arid savanna

  • M Smet Department of Conservation Ecology, University of Stellenbosch, Private Bag X1, Matieland7602, South Africa
  • D Ward Present address: School of Biological and Conservation Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Private Bag X01,Scottsville, 3209, South Africa
Keywords: grazing gradients, pastoralism, rangeland degradation, South Africa, vegetation change


Most of South Africa's land surface is arid or semi-arid rangeland. Three management systems exploit these areas: commercial livestock ranching, communal livestock ranching and game ranching. The ways in which these management systems affect rangeland ecology is contentious due to inherent differences in management characteristics and the controversy surrounding driving forces in rangeland vegetation dynamics. We used 500m-long grazing gradients around water-points in order to evaluate the effects of grazing intensity on plant species composition and diversity, and to compare levels of degradation among management systems. We compared species composition, bare soil frequency, shrub and tree density among management systems. We conclude that grazing has significant negative effects in these rangelands, although differences in degree of degradation could have been confounded by factors other than grazing.

African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2005, 22(1): 59–71

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119