The impact of land degradation on landscape function in Mount Fletcher, Eastern Cape.
Ndamane, Nandipha Gloria.
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The severity of natural vegetation degradation has become a serious challenge, causing negative impacts on the vegetation ecosystems, livestock population, and productivity, landscape organization and river systems. The research project focussed on the impact of land degradation on the landscape function and vegetation cover. The study was addressing two main aims. The first aim was to assess the landscape function analysis (LFA) method as a tool to determine the landscape functioning and differentiate the condition of the rangeland into various levels of degradation caused by over-grazing. The second aim was to determine the effects of excluding grazing herbivores using on ecosystem functioning. Monitoring is an important part of the restoration process, it allows restoration practitioners to assess success and to adapt management strategies and restoration methods, so as to evaluate change in their restoration objectives. The landscape function analysis method was applied in this study. The LFA method is a field based technique that examines the landscape level of ecosystem function and determines the functional status of rangelands. The LFA consists landscape organization and soil surface assessment indices which reflect the ability of the landscape to capture and retain resources. Data were collected inside and outside of the exclosure plots to determine whether there were differences in some measured parameters (landscape organization index, total patch area, number of patches/10 m, average inter-patch length, stability, infiltration and nutrient cycling) between the non-grazed (exclosure) and continuously grazed area. The vegetation cover from the exclosure plots was more improved as well as landscape functioning. These results demonstrated that grazing exclusion is an effective measure for maintaining the landscape functioning and improving above ground cover. The adoption of livestock exclusion practice had a profound impact on vegetation recovery and in turn on litter accumulation and improvement of soil fertility. The landscape organization indices and the soil surface assessment (SSA) indices played the most important roles in contributing to the knowledge of the landscape functioning. The study found that LFA method can be used as a tool to detect the landscape functioning and differentiate between intact and degraded areas.