Multi-scale patterns and bush encroachment in an arid savanna with a shallow soil layer Academic Article uri icon


  • Abstract Question: Bush encroachment (i.e. an increase in density of woody plants often unpalatable to domestic livestock) is a serious problem in many savannas and threatens the livelihood of many pastoralists. Can we derive a better understanding of the factors causing bush encroachment by investigating the scale dependency of patterns and processes in savannas? Location: An arid savanna in the Khomas Hochland, Namibia. Methods: Patterns of bush, grass, and soil nutrient distribution were surveyed on several scales along a rainfall gradient, with emphasis on intraspecific interactions within the dominant woody species, Acacia reficiens. Results: Savannas can be interpreted as patch-dynamic systems where landscapes are composed of many patches (a few ha in size) in different states of transition between grassy and woody dominance. Conclusions: In arid savannas, this patchiness is driven both by rainfall that is highly variable in space and time and by inter-tree competition. Within the paradigm of patch-...

publication date

  • January 1, 2005