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How elephants utilize a miombo-wetland ecosystem in Ugalla landscape, Western Tanzania
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography. University of Dar es Salaam. (Biogeografi och geomatik)
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

African elephants are ‘keystone’ species with respect to biodiversity conservation in Africa since they maintain habitats that support several animal communities by changing vegetation structure through foraging and by dispersing seeds between landscapes. Elephants are also ‘flagship’ species because, given their impressive size, they can make people sympathetic and stimulate local and international concerns for their protection. Economically, elephants contribute to national revenues as tourists are willing to pay to watch them. Despite all these factors, little is known however about elephant movement and how they utilize resources, especially in miombo-wetland ecosystems. This thesis investigates how elephants utilize resources in a miombo-wetland ecosystem in the Ugalla landscape of Western Tanzania over different protected areas containing different resource users. Using Global Positioning System (GPS) collars fitted to six elephants, it was observed that some elephant families are not confined in one protected area in the Ugalla landscape. Rather, they moved readily between different protected areas. Elephant movements were restricted to areas near the rivers, especially the Ugalla River, during the dry season and were dispersed widely during the wet season. As they move, elephants in the miombo woodlands of Ugalla selected the most abundant woody plants for browsing. Common to many woody plants, the browsed plants were short of mineral nutrients (e.g., sodium, calcium). Elephants obtained additional minerals by eating soils from certain termite mounds. Soils from termite mounds are richer in mineral elements (e.g., sodium, calcium, iron) compared to soils from the surrounding flood plain or compared to the browsed plants. However, the recorded termite mounds from which elephants eat soils were not evenly distributed in the landscape but confined mainly to the flood plains in the Ugalla Game Reserve. The Ugalla River, which is the main source of water for the elephants and other animals and also supports fishing activities by the local people in Ugalla during the dry seasons, is infested by the water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes). Such infestation potentially limits access to these precious surface water supplies. In addition at the regional level, the Ugalla River is among the major rivers that flow into the Lake Tanganyika which is shared by the countries of Tanzania, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zambia. Thus, the spread of water hyacinth if left unchecked threatens to impact Lake Tanganyika, affecting many countries and ecosystem services. This thesis highlights that sustainable conservation of biodiversity in different protected areas in the Ugalla landscape requires an integrated management approach that will embrace conservation of different interrelated landscape resources required by both wildlife and the rural poor populations for their livelihoods. Regular coordinated wildlife anti-poaching patrols should be initiated across the entire Ugalla landscape because the elephants, among other wildlife, utilize different protected areas in Ugalla. Local communities should also be engaged in conservation initiatives (e.g., controlling the spread of the water hyacinth) as these directly impact local livelihoods.

 

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm Univeristy , 2015.
Series
Dissertations from the Department of Physical Geography, ISSN 1653-7211 ; 49
Keyword [en]
Biodiversity, Browsing, Elephants, Forage, GPS collars, Mineral elements, Miombo woodlands, Protected areas, Termite mounds, Ugalla, Water hyacinth, Woody plants abundance
National Category
Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116286ISBN: 978-91-7649-161-4 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-116286DiVA: diva2:806027
Public defence
2015-05-29, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 12, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Projects
INTEGRATED NATURAL RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
Funder
Sida - Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following papers were unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 1: Manuscript. Paper 2: Manuscript. Paper 3: Manuscript. Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2015-05-07 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2017-05-04Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Home ranges and utilization distributions of African elephants in Ugalla landscape, Western Tanzania
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Home ranges and utilization distributions of African elephants in Ugalla landscape, Western Tanzania
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Identifying the core areas used by wildlife species in a landscape is relevant for management and conservation of the species and their habitats. In Tanzania, little is known about the basic ecology of most medium-sized and large mammals in Miombo ecosystems of Western Tanzania. In this study, we tracked six African elephants in the Ugalla landscape in Western Tanzania using the GPS collars in order to depict their home range and habitat utilizations. Collared elephants used different parts of the Ugalla landscape in both wet and dry seasons (regardless of landscape management differences), but their main distribution were focused to the Ugalla Game Reserve due to permanent water availability in the Ugalla River and regular patrols. Sizes of home ranges were estimated using 100% Minimum Convex Polygons and Time-Locoh Convex Hulls (T-LoCoH) method and the results differed among the six collared elephants. Effective conservation is challenging, because it involves obvious complexities and approaches that vary from science and planning to policy and site-specific measures, but we recommend joint anti-poaching patrols in Ugalla landscape that goes beyond the Ugalla Game Reserve to other adjacent protected areas.

Keyword
Elephants
National Category
Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116281 (URN)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved
2. Woody plant abundance drives the browsing patterns of elephants in miombo woodlands of Ugalla landscape, Tanzania
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Woody plant abundance drives the browsing patterns of elephants in miombo woodlands of Ugalla landscape, Tanzania
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Knowledge on what factors influence habitat selection by wildlife and the food items they feed upon is crucial to habitat and species conservation. Elephants in Ugalla landscape select the types of woody plants to feed upon (browse). To understand the factors driving the elephant browsing patterns in miombo woodlands within the Ugalla landscape, we sampled the woody vegetation in 1860 plots along 62 transects in order to assess the occurrence and abundance of woody species, their height, elephant browsing signs, and analyze leaf nutrient contents. Plants from the Fabaceae, which are characteristic in the Miombo woodlands, comprised the majority of sampled plant species in the Ugalla landscape. Not all plant species were browsed. Highly browsed plants had a height between 1-10 meters. Leaf nutrient content did not differ significantly among the sampled plants. The forage selection by the elephants in Ugalla could be driven by the abundance of the preferred plant species and their heights, which determines forage accessibility.

Keyword
browsing, elephants, foraging, plant height, plant species, miombo woodland
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116282 (URN)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved
3. Geophagic termite mounds as one of the resources for African elephants in Ugalla Game Reserve, Western Tanzania
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Geophagic termite mounds as one of the resources for African elephants in Ugalla Game Reserve, Western Tanzania
2017 (English)In: African Journal of Ecology, ISSN 0141-6707, E-ISSN 1365-2028, Vol. 55, no 1, 91-100 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Knowledge of the distribution and nutrient values of key resources supporting the survival of wildlife species is integral for an effective conservation planning and management of the species. In the Miombo ecosystem of the Ugalla Game Reserve, African elephants (Loxodonta africana Blumenbach 1797), eat soil, that is geophagy, from certain termite mounds. We mapped that all the geophagic termite mounds are exclusively situated in the flood plain. To understand why soils from some termite mounds are eaten, we collected and analysed soil samples from 10 geophagic termite mounds, seven nongeophagic termite mounds and 13 samples from the surrounding flood plain. Percentage of clay content did not differ significantly among the soil samples. Soils from geophagic termite mounds were richer in mineral elements compared with other soil samples. The results demonstrate that the driver for geophagic behaviour is related to rich mineral element contents found in geophagic termite mounds made of the mineral-enriching termites (Macrotermes). Thus, geophagic termite mounds play a role in elephant's dietary needs and possibly influence their movement patterns in Ugalla, as the elephants cannot obtain enough minerals from their feeds. Geophagic termite mounds should be protected from potential destructive land uses, such as airstrip construction.

Keyword
elephants, geophagy, Loxodonta africana, mineral concentration, miombo ecosystem, termite mounds
National Category
Biological Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-142714 (URN)10.1111/aje.12326 (DOI)000397530900010 ()
Available from: 2017-05-04 Created: 2017-05-04 Last updated: 2017-05-04Bibliographically approved
4. Why Integrated Natural Resource Management in Malagarasi-Muyovozi Ramsar Site, Tanzania?: Insights from Ugalla Game Reserve
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Why Integrated Natural Resource Management in Malagarasi-Muyovozi Ramsar Site, Tanzania?: Insights from Ugalla Game Reserve
(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

To maintain the ecological character in Ramsar wetlands requires a management approach that addresses all interrelated issues at different scales and for different resource uses. Currently, the infestation and the spread of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) in Ugalla River within the Ugalla Game Reserve is a threat affecting the ecological character of the Malagarasi-Muyovozi Ramsar Site (MMRS). The Ugalla River is the main source of water supporting wildlife and livelihood activities such as fishing in that part of the MMRS. An aerial survey in the Ugalla River using a microlight aircraft established that almost 35% of the water surface in the Ugalla River within the Ugalla Game Reserve is either partially or completely covered by the water hyacinth. As a consequence, two fishing camps have already been closed. Currently, the water hyacinth infestation is managed using a sector-based wildlife management plan that has less focus on maintaining the ecological character of the Ugalla River and more focus on wildlife management. To address multiple stresses in MMRS, an integrated natural resource management plan is recommended to work in accordance with the Ramsar Wise Use Principle thereby adhering to the Ramsar Convention Guidelines for management planning for Ramsar sites and other wetlands.

Keyword
Biodiversity, Livelihood, Invasive species, Water hyacinth, Wetlands
National Category
Other Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-116284 (URN)
Available from: 2015-04-17 Created: 2015-04-17 Last updated: 2016-01-29Bibliographically approved

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