Effects of Lantana camara (L.) invasion on the native vegetation of Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe
The study assessed the impact of Lantana camara (L) invasion on native vegetation of the northern part of Gonarezhou National Park (GNP), Zimbabwe. Stratified random sampling using three categories ; uninvaded, moderately invaded and heavily invaded, was employed. The distribution of L. camara in the northern part of Gonarezhou National Park was mapped using GIS. Parameters measured for native vegetation included basal area, woody plant density, canopy and herbaceous cover. Species diversity (H') and species richness (S) were determined in each category. Lantana camara was found to be most prevalent among the riparian vegetation and in the low-lying areas of the northern part of GNP. A total of 41 native woody species and 2 native herbaceous species were identified in the study area. Basal area, canopy cover, herbaceous cover, woody plant density, H' and S of native vegetation significantly varied (P<0.05) across the categories of L. camara intensity. These variables were highest in the uninvaded category and lowest in the heavily invaded category. The uninvaded category was the most diverse (H'=1.334). The significant differences in vegetation variables suggest that L. camara is altering native vegetation structure and composition in GNP to the detriment of wildlife management. Effective control of L. camara in Gonarezhou National Park is therefore urgently required to enhance wildlife and biodiversity conservation in the area.
Keywords : Alien plants, Biodiversity, Invasive plants, Lantana camara, Vegetation composition.