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Data from: The influence of fire frequency on the structure and botanical composition of savanna ecosystems

Citation

Ribeiro, Natasha et al. (2019), Data from: The influence of fire frequency on the structure and botanical composition of savanna ecosystems, Dryad, Dataset, https://doi.org/10.5061/dryad.jn013r2

Abstract

Savannas cover 60% of the land surface in Southern Africa, with fires and herbivory playing a key role in their ecology. The Limpopo National Park (LNP) is a 10,000 km2 conservation area in southern Mozambique and key to protecting savannas in the region. Fire is an important factor in LNP’s landscapes, but little is known about its role in the park’s ecology. In this study, we explored the interaction between fire frequency (FF), landscape and vegetation. To assess the FF, we analysed ten years of the MODerate resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) burned area product (2003-2013). A stratified-random sampling approach was used to assess biodiversity across three dominant landscapes (Nwambia Sandveld-NS, Lebombo North-LN and Shrubveld Mopane on Calcrete-C) and two FF levels (low - twice or less; and high - 3 times or more, during 10 years). Six ha were sampled in each stratum, except for the LN vs High FF in which low accessibility allowed only 3 ha sampling. FF was higher in NS and LN landscapes, where 25% and 34% of the area, respectively burned more than three times in 10 years. The landscape type was the main determinant of grass composition and biomass. However, in the sandy NS biomass was higher under high FF. The three landscapes supported three different tree/shrub communities, but FF resulted in compositional variations in NS and LN. Fire frequency had no marked influence on woody structural parameters (height, density and phytomass). We concluded that the savannas in LNP are mainly driven by landscape (geology), but FF may impose specific modifications. We recommend a fire laissez-faire management system for most of the park and a long-term monitoring system of vegetation to address vegetation changes related to fire. Fire management should be coordinated with the neighboring Kruger National Park, given its long history of fire management.

Usage Notes

Location

Mozambique
Southern Africa