Latest Updates of Savanna Vegetation

It has been a busy few weeks in Skukuza, Kruger National Park for Dr Benjamin Wigley from  who recently joined the SECOSUD  II team. Dr Wigley helped to organize and facilitate a savanna plant functional trait workshop (27th – 29th February 2020) which brought together a group of scientists from the worlds different savannas to finalize and test some of the new and exciting functional traits that will be included in a new handbook that aims to standardize the sampling of plant functional traits that are especially relevant to savanna and grassland ecosystems.

During the International Savanna Networking Meeting held in Skukuza (1-5th March 2020), Dr Wigley presented the findings from research undertaken in Kenya which showed that the long-term removal of herbivores in semi-arid savanna resulted in a significant increase in soil carbon sequestration and surprisingly most of this soil carbon was derived from grasses not trees. This work has serious implications for large-scale tree planting programs (e.g. AFR100) which aim to plant up vast areas of African Drylands with trees. Dr Wigley also presented at the African Forestry and Wildlife Congress held in Skukuza from the 9-13th March 2020. In this presentation he outlined the findings from another study undertaken in Kruger National Park which outlined the importance of fires in savanna systems. This work showed that the removal of fire resulted in significant decreases in bark recovery in an iconic African tree species – the removal of fire resulted in increased colonization of damaged areas by ants which impeded bark recovery. Details of the published articles can be found below.

Bibliography:
Wigley, B.J., Augustine, D.J., Coetsee, C., Ratnam, J. and Sankaran, M., 2020. Grasses continue to trump trees at soil carbon sequestration following herbivore exclusion in a semi‐arid African savanna. Ecology, p.e03008.
Wigley, B.J., Coetsee, C., Kruger, L.M., Ratnam, J. and Sankaran, M., 2019. Ants, fire, and bark traits affect how African savanna trees recover following damage. Biotropica51(5), pp.682-691.

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