Continued decline in tree euphorbias (Euphorbia tetragona and E. triangularis) on the Great Fish River Reserve, Eastern Cape, South Africa.
African Journal of Ecology 48 (4): 923–929.
Article first published online: 10 NOV 2010
A dramatic decline averaging 43% over a 4-year period has occurred in tree Euphorbia (Euphorbia tetragona and Euphorbia triangularis) populations on the Great Fish River Reserve, South Africa. These changes are evident from data gathered by general vegetation monitoring methods as well as from a focused study of four tree Euphorbia populations. The decline from 2003 to 2007 was more marked for E. triangularis than for E. tetragona and was accompanied by a general absence of seedlings and a reduced presence of younger age classes of both species, decreasing the proportion of younger trees in the populations. The role of megaherbivores, specifically the black rhinoceros, in these changes is well established. However, the impact of baboon activity, leading to damage to tree crowns and upper branches, is also substantial, especially on E. triangularis populations. Damaged crowns were recorded significantly more often for E. triangularis than for E. tetragona, and the damage frequency increased with decreasing tree height. Thus, our work provides the first evidence that these two closely related Euphorbia species may be affected differently by herbivory.