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Rangeland Mismanagement in South Africa: Failure to Apply Ecological Knowledge

Andrew T. Hudak
Human Ecology
Vol. 27, No. 1 (Mar., 1999), pp. 55-78
Published by: Springer
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4603308
Page Count: 24
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Rangeland Mismanagement in South Africa: Failure to Apply Ecological Knowledge
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Abstract

Chronic, heavy livestock grazing and concomitant fire suppression have caused the gradual replacement of palatable grass species by less palatable trees and woody shrubs in a rangeland degradation process termed bush encroachment in South Africa. Grazing policymakers and cattle farmers alike have not appreciated the ecological role fire and native browsers play in preventing bush encroachment. Unpredictable droughts are common in South Africa but have deflected too much blame for bush encroachment away from grazing mismanagement. Bush encroachment is widespread on both black and white farms, although the contributing socioeconomic, cultural, and political forces differ. Managers at Madikwe Game Reserve have reintroduced fire and native game animals into a formerly overgrazed system in an attempt to remediate bush encroachment, with encouraging preliminary results. A bush control program is needed that educates cattle farmers about the ecological causes of bush encroachment and encourages the use of fire and native browsers as tools for sustainable grazing management.

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