Understanding the causes of bush encroachment in Africa: The key to effective management of savanna grasslands

Olaotswe E. Kgosikoma, Kabo Mogotsi


The increase in biomass and abundance of woody plant species, often thorny or unpalatable, coupled with the suppression of herbaceous plant cover, is a widely recognized form of rangeland degradation. Bush encroachment therefore has the potential to compromise rural livelihoods in Africa, as many depend on the natural resource base. The causes of bush encroachment are not without debate, but fire, herbivory, nutrient availability and rainfall patterns have been shown to be the key determinants of savanna vegetation structure and composition. In this paper, these determinants are discussed, with particular reference to arid and semi-arid environments of Africa. To improve our current understanding of causes of bush encroachment, an integrated approach, involving ecological and indigenous knowledge systems, is proposed. Only through our knowledge of causes of bush encroachment, both direct and indirect, can better livelihood adjustments be made, or control measures and restoration of savanna ecosystem functioning be realized.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.17138/tgft(1)215-219


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