Diversity and structure of woody vegetation across areas with different soils in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe
Despite the importance of edaphic factors in influencing woody vegetation diversity and structure in savannas, there is still limited research on the topic across most savanna ecosystems. Here we investigate the differences and/or similarities of woody vegetation diversity and structure across areas with different edaphic factors (i.e. soil group) in Gonarezhou National Park, Zimbabwe. We stratified our study area into two strata based on soil group, namely siallitic soil in northern Gonarezhou and regosol soil in central Gonarezhou. Data were collected from 96 sample plots between March and April in 2011. Our results showed significantly higher woody species diversity in siallitic soil stratum compared to regosol soil stratum. In contrast, there were no significant differences in woody vegetation structure between the two study strata. Our results suggest that soil variations play an important role in influencing woody vegetation diversity more than woody vegetation structure in Gonarezhou. Future studies should investigate the role of soils on a specific woodland type’s composition and structure, and also determine the interactive effects between soils and other environmental determinants in Gonarezhou and similar protected areas in savanna ecosystems.
Keywords: large herbivores, regosol, savanna, siallitic, species diversity