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Browser selectivity alters post-fire competition between Erica arborea and E. trimera in the sub-alpine heathlands of Ethiopia

Johansson, Maria U and Rooke, Tuulikki and Fetene, Masresha and Granström, Anders (2009). Browser selectivity alters post-fire competition between Erica arborea and E. trimera in the sub-alpine heathlands of Ethiopia. Plant ecology. 207:1, 149-160
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s11258-009-9661-9

Abstract

Mammalian herbivores have the potential to alter the competitive relations of woody species, if consumption is unevenly distributed between species. At elevations above 3500 m in the southern Ethiopian highlands, vegetation is dominated by Erica arborea and Erica trimera. Both species can potentially grow into short trees, but are burnt on a rotation of 6 to 10 years, and regenerate by re-sprouting from belowground lignotubers. The regenerating scrub is heavily browsed by cattle. We set up browsing exclosures at three burnt sites to quantify the impact of browsing over a three-year period. When protected from browsing, E. trimera had similar or better height growth than Erica arborea, but in browsed vegetation, Erica arborea instead grew taller. Browsing was more intense on E. trimera in the first years after fire, indicating a difference in palatability between the species. We checked if browse quality differed, by analysing shoot contents of acid detergent fibre, protein, phenolics and tannins. Contrary to expectations the preferred E. trimera contained more acid detergent fibre, less protein and had a higher tannin activity than E. arborea. Although the vegetative growth of E. arborea is favoured relative to E. trimera under high browsing pressure, rapid change in abundance would not be expected, since short-interval fire will repeatedly eradicate any gains in vegetative growth. However, within the typical fire return interval of less than 10 years, E. trimera barely reach a reproductive state, whereas E. arborea flower profusely. Under the current regime of fire and browsing this may in the long run be more important than differences in height growth, leading to a gradual increase in the proportion of E. arborea.

Authors/Creators:Johansson, Maria U and Rooke, Tuulikki and Fetene, Masresha and Granström, Anders
Title:Browser selectivity alters post-fire competition between Erica arborea and E. trimera in the sub-alpine heathlands of Ethiopia
Series/Journal:Plant ecology (1385-0237)
Year of publishing :2009
Volume:207
Number:1
Page range:149-160
Publisher:Springer
ISSN:1385-0237
Language:English
Publication Type:Journal article
Refereed:Yes
Article category:Scientific peer reviewed
Version:Accepted version
Full Text Status:Public
Subjects:Obsolete subject words > NATURAL SCIENCES > Biology > Terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecology > Terrestrial ecology
Keywords:Erica arborea, Erica trimera, Afro-alpine heathland, fire management, browser selectivity, tannin
URN:NBN:urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-308
Permanent URL:
http://urn.kb.se/resolve?urn=urn:nbn:se:slu:epsilon-e-308
Additional ID:
Type of IDID
DOI10.1007/s11258-009-9661-9
ID Code:8539
Faculty:S - Faculty of Forest Sciences
Department:(S) > Dept. of Forest Ecology and Management
External funders:Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Deposited By: Maria U Johansson
Deposited On:10 Jan 2012 07:42
Metadata Last Modified:02 Dec 2014 10:48

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