LUSKEL, B. L., MERTENS, T., LENT, P.C., DE BOER, W. F. & PRINSL, H.H. T. (2009)

Impact of the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis minor ) on a local population of Euphorbia bothae  in the Great Fish River Reserve, South Africa.

African Journal of Ecology 47 (4): 509–517, December 2009
DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2028.2008.00973.x


In the Great Fish River Reserve, South Africa, black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis minor) feed extensively on a local population of Euphorbia bothae. Maintaining the endangered black rhinoceros and the protected E. bothae population are both conservation priorities of the reserve. Therefore, the sustainability of this plant–animal interaction was investigated by comparing population characteristics, browsing incidence and intensity within the reserve and in an adjacent exclosure without access to rhino. Fixed-point photographs showed that over a 2-month period 36.6% of 213 monitored plants were browsed, with an average biomass loss of 13%, and 1% were destroyed. Of 26 plants re-photographed after approximately 3 years, 70% showed a decrease in biomass, averaging 37.8% over this period. In this time span, 19% of the monitored plants died. Small plants (<45 cm) were over-represented in the rhino-browsed area, whereas the fraction of reproductively active plants and overall plant density were found to be lower than in the adjacent exclosure. No evidence of short-term compensatory growth in response to browsing was found for E. bothae. This study indicates that, with the current population size, rhinos are overexploiting the E. bothae population and special measures should be taken to prevent local extinction.



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